by the New York State Podiatric Medical Association
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of five Americans report they have been diagnosed with arthritis, which means, "joint inflammation." And as the aging population rises, so will those startling statistics. The CDC also reports that people of all ages can be affected by arthritis, including children, and that nearly two-thirds of those affected are under age 65.
Arthritis is the nation's number one cause of disability limiting the activities and productivity of 21-million working-age adult Americans.
Symptoms are often manifested in feet and podiatrists are on the first line of defense when it comes to treating this debilitating disease. Each foot has 28 bones and more than 30 joints that can be afflicted by arthritis. The following are the most common foot joints affected:
•The joint where the ankle and shinbone meet
•The three joints of the foot that involve the heel bone, the inner mid-foot bone, and the outer mid-foot bone
•The joint of the big toe and foot bone
In many kinds of arthritis, progressive joint deterioration occurs and the smooth cushioning cartilage in joints is gradually lost. As a result, the bones rub and wear against each other.
Soft tissues in the joints also may begin to wear down. Arthritis can be painful and eventually result in limited motion, loss of joint function, and deformities in the joints affected. But early diagnosis and proper medical care can help significantly.
Osteoarthritis, or "wear-and-tear" arthritis, is the most common type of arthritis. And its onset is usually gradual. Also known as degenerative joint disease or age-related arthritis, osteoarthritis is more likely to develop as people age.
Inflammation and injury to the joint cause a breaking down of cartilage tissues, resulting in pain, swelling, and deformity. The changes in osteoarthritis usually occur slowly over many years, though there are occasional exceptions.
Symptoms of foot and ankle osteoarthritis can include:
•Tenderness or pain
•Reduced ability to move, walk, or bear weight
•Stiffness in the joint
•Swelling in the joint
•Muscle weakness or deterioration
If you are concerned about any of these symptoms, you are urged to visit your podiatrist. Podiatrists treat osteoarthritis in several ways. Nonsurgical methods include:
•Steroid medications injected into the joints
•Anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling in the joints
•Pain relievers such as aspirin
•Custom orthotics or specially prescribed shoes
•Canes or braces to support the joints
•Weight control since there are so many joints in each foot, which bear your weight
For further information on arthritis, visit the Arthritis Foundation at www.arthritis.org.
To find a podiatrist in your community, visit www.nyspma.org and click on the "Find a Podiatrist" button or call 866-996-4400.