Arthritic Foot

Osteoarthritis in the Feet

Osteoarthritis (OA) is commonly called ‘wear and tear’. It usually appears in people over 40 when the cartilage between bones has become worn and is no longer cushioning the joint as well as it used to.

Osteoarthritis affects joints that have been under pressure and is common in feet, especially in the joint at the base of the big toe.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis in the feet?

Any of the joints in your feet can be affected by osteoarthritis but the big toe joint is the site most commonly affected. Many people notice changes in the arch structure of their feet as they get older, and mild arthritis in the arch area is common. Osteoarthritis is less common in the ankle. Pain, stiffness and a reduction in movement are common symptoms of osteoarthritis.

What are the causes of osteoarthritis in the feet?

The cause of osteoarthritis itself is not fully understood, though the general consensus is that some people are genetically predisposed to getting the disease. Factors that cause the disease to arise in the foot include; obesity (which puts extra strain on the joints of the foot), activities that involve repetitive movements of a certain joint, and previous damage to the joint, such as a sports injury.

What should I do if I have osteoarthritis in the feet?

A physical examination by a podiatrist is advisable to identify the severity of the condition and to decide on any conservative treatment that may help the problem. A referral for surgery is sometimes required. Recognising activities that worsen the condition is important and it may be advisable to avoid these.

What shouldn’t I do if I have osteoarthritis?

This condition worsens over time and so steps need to be taken to avoid things that aggravate the problem, for example, being overweight puts excessive strain on the joints, as does intense types of activity. High heeled, narrow footwear should be avoided as these place significant stress on joints.

Could there be any long term effects of osteoarthritis?

In the long term, osteoarthritis in the feet can produce worsening pain, loss of mobility, and sometimes make walking difficult. Surgery may be required if conservative treatment is not enough to manage the condition.

Podiatry treatment for osteoarthritis

A podiatrist can take care of any corns and callus you may be suffering from on your feet. Orthotics (shoe inserts) can be provided which help the foot to function more efficiently and reduce pressure over certain ‘at risk’ areas. Cushioning shoe insoles can be provided to provide more comfort for the affected joints. Advice regarding the most suitable footwear can also be provided.