WHAT IS FOOT AND ANKLE ARTHRITIS?
Arthritis is a condition characterized by the breakdown and eventual loss of cartilage in one or more joints. Cartilage (the connective tissue found at the end of the bones in the joints) protects and cushions the bones during movement. When cartilage deteriorates or is lost, symptoms develop that can restrict one’s ability to easily perform daily activities. Arthritis is considered a wear-and-tear disease because the cartilage in the joint wears down with repeated stress and use over time. An injury may also lead to osteoarthritis, although it may take months or years after the injury for the condition to develop. For example, osteoarthritis in the big toe is often caused by kicking or jamming the toe or by dropping something on the toe. Arthritis in the midfoot is often caused by dropping something on it or by a sprain or fracture. In the ankle arthritis is usually caused by a fracture and occasionally by a severe sprain. Sometimes osteoarthritis develops as a result of abnormal foot mechanics, such as flat feet or high arches.
To help relieve symptoms, the surgeon may begin treating osteoarthritis with one or more of the following nonsurgical approaches: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, orthotic devices, bracing, immobilization, steroid injections, and physical therapy.
When osteoarthritis has progressed substantially or has failed to improve with nonsurgical treatment, surgery may be recommended. In advanced cases, surgery may be the only option. The goal of surgery is to decrease pain and improve function. The foot and ankle surgeon will consider a number of factors when selecting the procedure best suited to the patient’s condition and lifestyle.