Arthritis of the foot – causes of pathology, diagnosis and treatment

To begin an effective treatment of the disease, it is necessary to conduct a thorough diagnosis. Arthritis of the foot has characteristic symptoms and is accompanied by specific changes in the results of the study. The treatment program consists of conservative methods, physiotherapy, and rehabilitation. High-quality medical care will help to avoid complications, stabilize the condition of the joints and improve the quality of life.

More about pathology

The main mechanism of pathology is inflammation of the tissues of the joint. This pathological process changes the anatomy and function of the main components of this leg area. It is because of inflammation that pain, hyperemia, edema and impaired function develop. A prolonged course of the disease leads to foot deformity.
Arthritis involves several pathologies of a different nature. Pathology affects the metatarsus, tarsus and fingers. The most common rheumatoid, gouty forms of arthritis, as well as its occurrence as a complication of trauma or infection. The process can go to the ankle joint. The causes and prevalence of the process determine the methods of its treatment.

Damage to the foot has certain consequences, since the foot is an important anatomical formation, which is affected daily by static and dynamic factors. This part of the leg performs a significant number of functions, in particular, ensures the vertical position of the body, balances it in space, performs spring, jerk functions, has reflexogenic zones. In the musculoskeletal system, everything is interconnected, so the pathology of the foot can lead to disruption of the spine, large joints of the lower limb.

The foot consists of a large number of small bones that are connected to each other. There are Shoparovo joints, Lisfranc joints and other joints. Each of these joints can be involved in the inflammatory process.

Why does foot arthritis develop?

There are primary and secondary foot arthritis. In the first case, the disease is idiopathic in nature, that is, it occurs without a specific reason. Autoimmune disorders, metabolic failure, and infectious inflammation may accompany the secondary process.

Often, foot arthritis develops after an injury. In this case, inflammation can occur after a certain time after damage. Injuries such as bruising, sprains, fractures, dislocations of the articular surfaces are dangerous. If the patient has suffered a fracture, the infection can penetrate into the tissues of the joint directly. Not only significant trauma leads to the problem, minor regular damage also violates the condition of the articular surfaces. Microtrauma occurs in those who wear tight, uncomfortable shoes, engage in professional dancing or sports. Flat feet are also one of the risk factors for the disease.

With regard to infectious causes, most often, patients with a history of arthritis have the following conditions:

  • tonsillitis;
  • ARVI;
  • pneumonia;
  • intestinal infections, enterocolitis;
  • gonorrhea;
  • flu.

Fungal, viral, bacterial infections, parasitic infestations can lead to foot arthritis. The principle of the spread of pathology is this: from the foci of inflammation through the lymphatic and blood vessels, dissemination of pathogenic microorganisms occurs.

Sometimes, the pathology moves contact, from nearby foci of osteomyelitis, boils, areas of erysipelas, infected wounds, bites. There is a special syndrome in which arthritis of the foot appears against a urogenital or intestinal infection – Reiter’s disease.

An autoimmune mechanism develops after a disease, to the causative agent of which the body produces antibodies. When a malfunction occurs, the immune system regards the areas of the joints as the antigens and antibodies are directed towards them, leading to damage and inflammation.

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If the patient has gout, the joints suffer from uric acid synthesis products – urates. They are deposited in the areas of the foot and damage its structure, which is reflected in the form of an inflammatory process.

Accurately determining the causes of foot arthritis is quite difficult. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify risk factors that increase the likelihood of a process occurring:

  • age-related changes in old age;
  • impact on the joints of excess body weight;
  • regular exercise;
  • the effect of low temperatures;
  • smoking, caffeine, alcohol abuse;
  • deficiency of the immune system;
  • diabetes.

More often than not, several risk factors or causes are affected. At first, the body struggles with pathology, includes protective mechanisms and compensates for damage. After some time, its reserves are exhausted and the condition is decompensated, and then the disease itself.

What is the manifestation of the disease?

For arthritis of various etiologies, there are many common symptoms. First of all, these are the symptoms of the inflammatory process:

  • pain;
  • redness of the skin;
  • soft tissues become warm to the touch;
  • joint function worsens;
  • swelling of the soft tissues.

The pain syndrome with arthritis of the foot, most often, is constantly worrying, may intensify during physical exertion, and may become slightly weaker after rest. Different arthritis is characterized by specific features. For example, with the rheumatoid process, stiffness of the joints is observed, especially in the morning. It takes a little time for the patient to develop joints.

But with gout, pain is worried in the form of exacerbation attacks, during which there is redness of the skin, severe swelling, decreased mobility.

Violation of foot movements in arthritis is due to the presence of osteophytes or a sharp occurrence of pain that literally fetters the joints. Sometimes, at the same time, specific sounds, crunch, clicks, creaks are observed.

With arthritis of the foot, it is necessary to find out the number of joints involved in the process. There may be several, a significant number or a single episode. A prolonged course of the disease leads to such a symptom as deformation of the foot. There are typical curvatures for various diseases: with gout, the joint of the thumb significantly increases, and with rheumatoid arthritis, the toes bend and bend to the side.

Severe pain leads to lameness, distortion of gait. It becomes painful for the patient to stand on his foot. Gradually, damage to the joints of other groups joins this condition and polyarthritis appears. Of the complications, ankyloses, osteophyte overgrowth, joint subluxation, and foot deformity can be distinguished.

Of the common symptoms, patients note general weakness, sleep disturbance, a slight increase in temperature, decreased work productivity, fatigue and irritability.

Modern treatments

Treatment of foot arthritis includes the use of medications, physiotherapy, and less commonly, surgical intervention.

Of the drugs used, the following:

  • Anti-inflammatory. Drugs – diclofenac, meloxicam, ibuprofen, nimesulide. Reduce pain and inflammation, swelling, restore function.
  • Glucocorticoids. Drugs – hydrocortisone, prednisone, dexamethasone. Effectively and quickly relieve inflammation.
  • Analgesics. They are used to relieve pain – analgin, tempalgin. With gout, allopurinol and adenuric are used. They normalize the amount of uric acid in the blood. During an acute attack, colchicine is used.

From physiotherapy, magnetotherapy, massage, UHF, electrophoresis, therapeutic baths and mud are used. Methods are effective only during remission, and during exacerbation are not recommended.


Diagnosis of foot arthritis begins with a clinical examination. Your doctor may be a rheumatologist or an orthopedist. The specialist conducts a survey, collects an anamnesis, clarifies complaints and their nature, time of appearance. It is important to interview the patient for hereditary factors, past pathologies, occupational hazards. Next, you need an examination of the pathological site, conducting functional tests. Palpation of the foot, the implementation of active and passive movements, assessment of gait and posture are necessary. Based on this, a certain pathology can be suspected and additional research methods can be prescribed.

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Of the diagnostic methods, the following are used:

  1. Roentgenography. The simplest yet informative research method. You can see the presence of injuries, the inflammatory process, the growth of osteophytes, the phenomenon of arthrosis. Radiography of both feet is performed so that the doctor can compare the condition of the bones and joints on the healthy and affected side. The advantages of the method are accessibility, a wide range of indications, a high research speed and the ability to decrypt.
  2. Ultrasound diagnostics. More focused on soft tissue assessment. It is used for differential diagnosis. You can see edema, inflammatory changes. The study is painless for the patient, it can be quickly described by a specialist, the equipment is widely available in clinical institutions.
  3. Tomography. A great way to visualize damaged tissue. The doctor can examine any level of the site that interests him. All changes that are in the stop are visible.
  4. Laboratory methods. With the help of tests, you can determine the presence of inflammation in the body, shifts in biochemical parameters, reactive proteins, and an increase in uric acid. Immune studies are conducted to determine the nature of the process. It is important to determine treatment tactics and to make an accurate diagnosis.
  5. Puncture and analysis of synovial fluid. The technique requires special equipment and staff skills. A synovial fluid is taken for analysis, in which you can detect signs of inflammation, its nature. Differential diagnosis is carried out with pathologies that have a similar clinical picture.


Prevention of foot arthritis includes the normalization of body weight, rejection of bad habits, good nutrition and good sleep. These factors improve the general condition of the body, normalize metabolism. This is especially important for those who have a hereditary predisposition to the disease. It is necessary to normalize the load, abandon excessive exercises, choose comfortable shoes. The early start of treatment is the prevention of complications of the disease. It is better to monitor your health until the symptoms are less pronounced. This will prevent disability.

Shishkevich Vladimir
Shishkevich Vladimir
Orthopedic doctor, traumatologist
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I have been treating joints for many years. I can say with confidence that the joints are always treatable, even in the very ripe old age.

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Rheumatologist. For more than 20 years, he has been involved in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of joint diseases. Specialization: diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases and deformations of the musculoskeletal system.