Arthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease)
Arthritis is one of those things that seemingly everyone knows about, but no one other than a doctor can ever really tell you a much about it. We’re here to change that. At Superior Foot and Ankle Center, we want to help our patients here in Long Beach, as well as others around the country, learn more about how to deal with this painful disease. Arthritis therapy and treatment is one of the things we specialize in here, and our expert doctors are always looking to assist you and your loved ones in dealing with this damaging and degenerative condition.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a joint disorder that typically presents as a pain or uncomfortable stiffness in the joints, especially the joints of the feet, ankles, wrists, and hands. This is caused by inflammation of tissues surrounding and encapsulating the joint. There are over 100 types of arthritis, but thankfully for those suffering from this condition, as well as the physicians who treat them, there are only three main varieties that affect the feet and ankles.
Osteoarthritis is the typical “wear-and-tear” form of degenerative arthritis that affects many people as they hit middle-age. This condition is caused by fraying and abrasion to the cartilage or protective buffer between joints, which can get worn out through vigorous physical activity, or just the prolonged usage that occurs as we walk around for so many years (Yet another reason for you to get a 75,000 mile checkup). Osteoarthritis affects hundreds of thousands of people every year, and the best way to make sure you don’t add yourself to these numbers is to take proper care of your feet, including seeing your podiatrist regularly.
Unlike Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis isn’t just caused by wear-and-tear. Rheumatoid arthritis is actually an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body’s natural immune response is triggered by the synovium, the tissue that covers and surrounds the joint, and causes inflammation and painful swelling. As this tissue swells, it can put pressure on, and eventually damages, the joint and the surrounding bones, as well as adjacent tissues and ligaments. Rheumatoid arthritis is typically more damaging and degenerative than Osteoarthritis (or it’s close cousin, post-traumatic arthritis, which we’ll get to next). This is because even when you’re off your feet and not doing any more damage to the joint through activity, your body may still be attacking the joint tissue and causing the synovium to swell and damage the surrounding area.
Post-traumatic arthritis is actually a subset of Osteoarthritis. It is occurs when you have an injured joint that becomes arthritic over time. On average, an injured joint, in the feet or ankles, is about seven times as likely to become arthritic. Unfortunately, there is no way to really prevent an injured joint from becoming arthritic, short of replacing it. As it stands, we don’t have a truly great understanding of all of the causes of arthritis, or how to prevent them. Fortunately, multiple treatment options are available.
This is done when the arthritic joint and cartilage can be saved. Bone growth caused by the arthritis is trimmed. To protect your foot, you will need to wear a surgical shoe for several weeks. Once the foot heals, joint movement is restored.
When the affected joint cannot be repaired, fusion may be done. First, the cartilage and some bone on both sides of the joint are removed. Then, the big toe and metatarsal bones are held together with staples or screws. Your foot may be placed in a cast while you heal, as you will be asked not to bear weight on this foot. You may also need crutches for several weeks. Because the joint has been removed, your toe will be less flexible, but there will be no more joint for the arthritis to attack.
During this surgery, bone growth caused by the arthritis is trimmed, and part of the joint is removed. A pin is often used to align the bones and to keep them from touching, but is removed after several weeks. In some cases, the entire joint may be replaced with an implant. After surgery, you may be able to walk in a day or two but you may have to wear a splint or a surgical shoe for several weeks. When healed, the bones become connected with scar tissue, which lets your toe move.
Visit Superior Foot & Ankle Care Center
Our doctors are highly trained in surgical and non-surgical arthritis treatment. Both Dr. Vikki and Dr. Connie are Board-certified, and are constantly learning and evolving their skill-sets to bring the best arthritis treatment options to those suffering from this terrible and debilitating disease. Come see us, or give us a call at 562-420-9800 to schedule an appointment to talk about your arthritis treatment options. Don’t let arthritis ruin your life. Call the Superior Foot and Ankle Center today!