Patient Guide: Arthritis of the Feet and Ankles

Early diagnosis and treatment can help you maintain an active lifestyle

ROSEMONT, Ill. (May 19, 2014) Suffering with pain or stiffness in your feet and ankles? It could be arthritis. More than 52 million Americans have the condition, which destroys the normal workings of a joint. Arthritis most commonly affects the knees, hands, hips and spine, all of which impact quality of life in some way. But when arthritis affects the feet and ankles, mobility can be severely limited.

“It’s important to understand what type of arthritis you have so you can receive the right treatment,” says Jeffrey Feinblatt, MD, an orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist in Tualatin, Ore. “Osteoarthritis that comes with age is treated differently than rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune condition.” There’s also a form of arthritis that affects the big toe.

Orthopaedic foot and ankle specialists are medical doctors who can diagnose arthritis. They can take a complete medical history and do a physical exam. They can order X-rays of the feet and ankles to see the condition of the joints, and they can order lab tests to help identify the type of arthritis. Sometimes CT and MRI scans are done to help with the diagnosis.

Once your orthopaedic specialist confirms you have arthritis in your feet or ankles, he or she will recommend a treatment plan. This may include anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections, physical therapy, weight loss or orthotics such as pads in your shoes. Sometimes surgery is recommended. Different surgeries can clean the arthritic joint, remove the painful motion of the joint, or replace the joint with an artificial one.

“Patients are often told they just have to live with arthritis, but you’ll do better in the long run if you seek treatment as early as possible,” says Feinblatt. “In addition, you should take your medications as directed and control your weight to help take stress off your joints. And ask your doctor what else you can do to help maintain your activity level.”
May is Arthritis Awareness Month, and the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society has updated its patient education articles on foot and ankle arthritis, including adding an article on a treatment called total ankle replacement. Visit for information on this treatment as well as articles on arthritis of the big toe and rheumatoid arthritis.
About the AOFAS
romotes 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.
Jennifer Hicks
Director of Public Education