Osteoarthritis in the Foot

Osteoarthritis in the Foot


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and is also known as the degenerative joint disease or wear and tear arthritis.

In the condition of osteoarthritis, the cartilage which protects and cushions the joints breaks down over time. Formerly separated by the cartilage, these bones rub against each other, eventually damaging the tissue and underlying bone. This ultimately results in the painful joint symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis most frequently occurs in weight-bearing joints, including knees, hips and ankles.

Osteoarthritis of the Foot

Osteoarthritis of the foot mainly affects the joint at the base of the big toe, though it can also occur in the midfoot and ankle.

Experts indicate that some types of feet, such as flatfoot are more prone to be affected by this disorder than others. The particular structure and formation of these foot types makes them more vulnerable to such disorders.

Key Symptoms

There are a vast series of symptoms associated with the condition of the osteoarthritis of the foot. These symptoms might vary in accordance with specific individuals and cases.

With time, the toe might become bent and develop painful bunions. In addition, the joint might also become stiff, making the joint rigid and causing difficulty in walking.

In addition, some patients with osteoarthritis might also develop a bone spur or a bony protrusion at the affected joint. The individual affect by the osteoarthritis of the foot might also feel pain with shoe pressure at the site of a bone spur.

In some instances, blisters or calluses may form over the surface of the bone spur, which can eventually limit the movement.

OA of Foot – Causative Factors

Osteoarthritis is basically considered to be a wear and tear disease since the cartilage in the joint wears down with repeated stress and use over time.

As the cartilage deteriorates and gets thinner, the bones further lose their protective covering and eventually might rub together, leading to pain and inflammation in the joint.

In addition, osteoarthritis of the foot can also be caused by an injury, though the condition might develop after months or even years of the injury.

For instance, osteoarthritis in the midfoot can often be caused by dropping something on it or a by a sprain or fracture. Similarly, osteoarthritis of the big toe can be caused by kicking or jamming the toe or by dropping something on the toe.

Another factor that can cause the osteoarthritis of the foot is the abnormal foot mechanics. Individuals with flat feet or high archs are at an increased risk of being affected by OA of the foot. A flat foot causes less stability in the ligaments, resulting in excessive strain on the joints, leading to this medical condition.

On other hand, a high arch is rigid and lacks mobility. This further causes jamming of joints that creates an increased risk of osteoarthritis.

Diagnostic Methods

For the purpose of diagnosing OA of the foot, it is important to visit a foot and ankle surgeon. He/She will basically look for a series of symptoms such as swelling in the joint, limited mobility and pain with movement.

In the case of some patients, deformity and enlargement of the joint might also be noted.

Apart from foot examination, x-rays might also be conducted by the physician to diagnose the OA of the foot and estimate its extent.

Treatment Options

The treatment plan for OA of the foot is normally devised in accordance with the type, location and severity of the condition.

The main options of treatment include:

  • Taking pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medicines or steroid injections to reduce swelling
  • Wearing a supportive, pad, arch support or other type of shoe insert
  • Wearing a custom-made shoe, such as a stiff-soled shoe with a rocker bottom
  • Opting for an ankle-foot orthosis
  • Immobilizing the foot for sometime with devices and a reduction in the activity level
  • Wearing a brace or using a cane
  • Developing and maintaining a regular exercise regimen

Surgical Options

In addition to the above, a series of surgical options are also available for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the foot. The most significant amongst these include:

Arthroscopic debridement Arthrodesis or fusion Arthroplasty or joint replacement