May Articles 2015

Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Feet

Although rheumatoid arthritis actually attacks multiple bones and joints throughout the entire body, ninety percent of people who actually develop this condition usually do so in the foot or ankle area. Those who develop this kind of arthritis in the feet usually develop symptoms around the toes and forefeet first, before anywhere else. Rheumatoid arthritis appears to have a genetic component. If it runs in the family, then you will be more likely to develop it as well.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks the lining of the membranes surrounding the joints. This causes inflammation of the membrane lining, and the gradual destruction of the joint’s cartilage and even bone.

Some of the most common symptoms that are associated with RA include pain and swelling of the feet. Stiffness in the feet is also another common symptom that people experience. Those who have RA in the feet usually feel the pain in the ball or sole of their feet. This can get to be very painful at times. A person's joints can even shift and become deformed after a period of time.

In order to properly diagnose RA in the feet it is usually necessary for a doctor or podiatrist to evaluate the area. Your doctor will also question you about your medical history, occupation, etc., to determine whether anything in your lifestyle may have triggered the condition. There are a number of tests that may be performed to help diagnose RA such as a rheumatoid factor test, although there is no one single test that will tell you for sure if you have RA. There are different X-rays that can be taken as well to determine if a person has RA in their feet.

There is a range of treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment of RA is usually a lifelong process that includes a variety of methods of treatment and therapy. Your doctor can prescribe special shoes that should help with arch support as well as heel support. A physical therapist can help those with this condition learn exercises which will keep their joints flexible. Surgery may be needed to correct some of the issues with the feet, such as bunions, and hammertoes. Fusion is usually the most successful surgical option for rheumatoid arthritis. However, people need to keep in mind that there are some risks associated with these surgeries.

Arthritic Foot Care

During your lifetime, you will probably walk about 75,000 miles, which is quite a lot of stress to put on your feet. As you get older, the 26 bones and 30 joints in your body will lose flexibility and elasticity, and your foot’s natural shock absorbers will wear down too. Having arthritis added to this mix only makes matters worse because your joints will become distorted and inflame, which is why arthritic foot care needs to be something you think about every day.

When dealing with arthritis, having additional foot complications, such as bunions, hammertoes, or neuroma, can be a serious detriment. To avoid these, buying well-fitting shoes with a lower heel and good support are a must. Arthritis causes you to lose your arch, so having shoes with good arch support is also highly recommended.

Aside from getting good arch support, the shoes need to fit comfortably and properly as well. A good place to start is by leaving a finger width between the back of the shoe and your foot to gauge proper size. It is also helpful to have a square or rounded toe box in the front to provide even more comfort. Another thing to look for is a rubber sole that can provide a cushion and absorb shock as you walk. This adds flexibility to the ball of your foot when you push off your heel to walk.

Exercise is another key aspect of arthritic foot care, not only strengthening and stretching your muscles and joints, but helping to prevent further injury and pain as well. Stretching the Achilles tendon for example, the tendon located in the back of your heel, will give you added mobility and reduce pain due to stress. Another thing you can do is massage your feet, kneading the ball of your foot as well as your toes from top to bottom.

Stretching the Achilles tendon is a simple exercise that you can do at home anytime. Lean against the wall with your palms flat against the surface while placing one foot forward, towards the wall, and one foot behind you. Bend your forward knee towards the wall while keeping your back knee locked straight, and make sure both your heels are completely touching the ground at all times. This will stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles as well, and you will feel the stretch almost immediately. You can also stretch your toes in a couple ways. One involves taking a rubber band and wrapping it around both your big toes while your heels remain together, then pull them apart to stretch your big toe. You can also place a rubber band around all the toes of one of your feet and then try to separate each individual toe, stretching them all.

A final step you can take to help your arthritis is taking non-steroid, non-inflammatory drugs or topical medicines with capsaicin. Unfortunately, there is no complete way to remove all of your arthritic pain, but following some of this advice can go a long way in staying as pain free as possible.


Blisters on the Feet

Blisters are a common ailment of people who wear shoes that are either too tight or rubbed up against their feet in the wrong way while wearing them. In order to better understand how they are formed and what treatment should be used for them, you have to start with the basics of what a blister actually is.

A blister on the foot, or any other part of the body for that matter, is a small pocket that is filled with fluid. It usually forms on the upper layer of the skin because these layers are loose enough to allow a blister to form. The most common fluid in a blister is just a clear, watery like fluid that should not cause any concern. However, blisters can fill up with blood if they are deep enough and even pus if they have become infected with bacteria.

Blisters almost always form on the feet due to shoes rubbing up against the foot, where the friction causes blisters. These can occur after you have walked for a long period of time for example, or when your shoes simply do not fit you properly. They also form faster and easier if your feet are moist, so keeping them dry and clean is a preventative step you can take to avoid getting blisters.

Preventing infection should be the number one concern when treating blisters, as well as alleviating the pain they can cause. Using a band aid to cover up the blister will help it heal and prevent bacteria from entering it. New skin will form under the blister and eventually cause it to pop, or you can take a pin and try to pop it yourself.

If the blister is filled with pus or blood, seeking treatment from a doctor is ideal. Antibiotics might need to be taken in order to completely eliminate the bacteria inside the blister, and that needs to be prescribed by a doctor.

However, one of the best ways to treat blisters is to prevent them all together. Keeping your feet dry and making sure that your shoes fit properly are just two of the steps you can take to prevent blisters. Shoes that are too tight or shoes that are too loose and allow your feet to slide in them will cause blisters. Applying a band aid to an area you think might get a blister before one pops up is another way you can prevent them.

What to Know About a Broken Toe

Trauma to the foot, especially the toes, can occur in many ways. Banging them, stubbing them, or dropping something on them are a few different ways this trauma can occur. Given the fact that toes are positioned in front of the feet, they typically sustain the brunt of such trauma. When trauma occurs to a toe, the result can be a painful break or fracture. Another type of trauma that can break a toe is repeated activity that places stress on the toe for prolonged periods of time.

Broken toes can be categorized as either minor or severe fractures. Symptoms of minor toe fractures include throbbing pain, swelling, bruising on the skin and toenail, and the inability to move the toe with ease. Severe toe fractures require medical attention and are indicated when the broken toe appears crooked or disfigured, when there is tingling or numbness in the toe, or when there is an open, bleeding wound present on the toe.

Generally, a minor toe break will heal without long-term complications, but it is important to discontinue activities that put pressure on the toe. It is best to stay off of the injured toe and immediately get a splint or cast to prevent any additional movement of the toe bones. You can also immobilize your toe by placing a small cotton ball between the injured toe and the toe beside it, then taping the two toes together with medical tape. Swelling can be alleviated by placing an ice pack on the broken toe directly as well as elevating your feet above your head.

Severe toe fractures may be treated with a splint, cast, and in some cases, minor surgery; especially when the big toe has been broken. Due to its position and the pressure it endures with daily activity, future complications can occur if the big toe is not properly treated. Pain associated with minor toe fractures can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications, and prescription pain killers may be necessary for severe toe fractures.

The healing time for a broken toe is approximately four to six weeks. In severe cases where the toe becomes infected or requires surgery, healing time can take up to eight weeks or more. While complications associated with a broken toe are immediately apparent, it is important to note that there are rare cases when additional complications, such as osteoarthritis, can develop over time. You should immediately speak with your podiatrist if you think you have broken your toe due to trauma, as they will be able to diagnose the injury and recommend the appropriate treatment options.