Don’t Become a Statistic: Protect Yourself Against Foot and Ankle Arthritis

American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society offers treatment options and preventative measures for the Arthritic Foot

ROSEMONT, IL, Nov. 16, 2009 -- One in five US adults (46 million) suffer from some form of arthritis. By the year 2030, an estimated 67 million people will be affected by arthritis according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the US, often limiting common daily activities. Eight million adults have difficulty standing due to arthritis and six million cannot walk one-quarter mile according to a 2002 National Health Interview Survey. The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) suggests with preventative measures and proper treatment, you can slow the development of arthritis of the foot and ankle and lead a more active and productive life.

There are many different types of arthritis. The most common is osteoarthritis, which results from the wear and tear damage to joint cartilage (the soft tissue between joint bones) that occurs with age. The joint becomes inflamed, red and swollen, causing pain. Another cause of arthritis in the foot and ankle is a previous injury such as a broken bone, ankle sprain or torn ligament. Despite receiving proper treatment at the time of the injury, it can cause the injured joint to become arthritic as you get older.  Rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory condition, is another common type of arthritis, as are gout, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, and psoriatic arthritis.

Nicholas Abidi, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Santa Cruz Orthopaedic Institute, Santa Cruz, CA, who served as chair of the AOFAS “State-of-the-Art Management of Ankle Arthritis” course in 2008, treats many patients with ankle arthritis. His advice for prevention of foot and ankle arthritis includes prompt medical treatment for acute injuries such as ankle sprains and midfoot sprains. “You should always seek treatment for foot and ankle injuries that cause significant swelling, pain or deformity because untreated foot and ankle injuries cannot always be treated effectively in a delayed fashion. Acute treatment, which may include immobilization and subsequent physical therapy, can prevent development and progression of foot and ankle arthritis.” 

Proper treatment of arthritis of the foot and ankle includes addressing the issues of pain and joint deformity.  The AOFAS recommends seeking treatment from an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle disorders.  According to Dr. Abidi, “If you do develop ankle or foot arthritis, bracing and shoe modification as well as weight management can limit the progression of the arthritis. Control of systemic inflammatory diseases with anti-inflammatory medications that are specifically targeted to treat these diseases is another way to slow joint destruction and improve function.”

For certain individuals surgery may be necessary. Surgery may require the cleaning of the arthritic joint, eliminating the painful motion of the joint, replacing the joint with an artificial joint, or a combination of all these. Two surgical options include ankle fusion (arthrodesis), and ankle replacement (arthroplasty). If surgery is recommended, Dr. Abidi offers the following advice, “Ankle, midfoot or hindfoot fusion are effective procedures for many people with foot or ankle arthritis. Individuals are immobilized and non-weight bearing for a period of six weeks immediately following surgery and are frequently progressed to weight bearing six weeks after surgery. The ability to walk improves over a period of months following surgery. Those with ankle arthritis who meet certain criteria established by their doctors may be candidates for total ankle replacement.  Ankle replacement immobilization and non-weight bearing measures are similar to the ankle fusion protocol.  The advantage of ankle replacement over ankle fusion is that patients retain ankle motion after surgery. In addition, over the long term, total ankle replacement recipients may experience a lower incidence of arthritis in the joints surrounding the ankle. The disadvantage of total ankle replacement is that some of the parts may wear out over time and require revision.”

The AOFAS explains that even with the best treatment, arthritis of the foot and ankle may continue to cause pain. However, by seeking early treatment you will help control pain and reduce further damage to the joint.   Taking medications as directed, exercising, controlling your weight and actively participating in all aspects of your care will also help minimize limitations and allow you to lead a more productive, active lifestyle.

The AOFAS website www.aofas.org contains public education resources on the care and treatment of arthritis of the foot and ankle. The site also features a surgeon referral service that makes it easy for patients to find a local orthopaedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle care.

About the AOFAS
The AOFAS promotes quality, ethical and cost-effective patient care through the education, research and training of orthopaedic surgeons and other health care providers. The Society creates public awareness for the prevention and treatment of foot and ankle disorders, provides leadership, and serves as a resource for government and industry as well as the national and international health care communities.​
 
About Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons
Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the foot and ankle. Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons use medical, physical and rehabilitative methods as well as surgery to treat patients of all ages. Relying on four years of medical school training, five years of post-graduate training and often a fellowship in foot and ankle care, orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons perform reconstructive procedures, treat sports injuries, and manage and treat trauma of the foot and ankle.
 
Contact:
Jennifer Hicks
Public Education Manager
Office: 847-384-4379
jhicks@aofas.org