Osteoarthritis is a localised condition which was thought to be caused by gradual wear and tear of the cartilage in the joints, more recently it is now thought to be a disease process within its own right. Age, family history, excessive weight, ill-fitting shoes and trauma (injury) can all be contributory factors to osteoarthritis.
In the case of Rheumatoid arthritis this is a systemic inflammatory condition and has the potential to affect every joint in the body as it targets the soft tissue surrounding the joint.
Arthritis is usually a very painful condition and is advisable to seek advice and treatment from your family doctor. In diagnosis of arthritis, a good complete history including blood tests are used to differentiate between one arthritis type and another. Also x-ray evaluation to view the bone structure of the foot and in more advanced cases of arthritis an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT scan (computerised axial tomography) are extremely helpful.
In most cases, the ball of the foot is painful due to a lack of fatty padding, leaving the bones on the soles of the feet exposed and unprotected, combined with this the feet and legs can ache because they are not being supported properly. In Rheumatoid arthritis ulnar (away from the mid-line of the body) deformities are often seen which present in the foot as bunions and retracted toes. These can be very painful and often require regular podiatry treatments.
The best and first line of defence for arthritis in the feet is a good supportive shoe but usually some type of protection and support is required. Adhesive and replaceable gel pads are useful to protect tender areas or enlarged joints. When extra support of the arch is required orthotic arch supports can help to reduce arthritic pains effect. Podiatrists often work as a key member of the Rheumatology team and can provide an invaluable service to sufferers of this condition.