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What is rheumatoid arthritis and how does it affect your feet?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a condition where your own antibodies mistakenly attack your healthy tissue, joints, and organs. This is a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling, loss of function, and stiffness of the joints.

In your feet, RA mainly affects the joints, which are specifically designed to absorb shock and ensure efficient movement between bones. When your antibodies attack your own healthy tissues, it causes inflammation. This inflammation in turn results in bone and joint damage, reduced range of motion, joint damage, and deformity. You can also get lumps under your skin called, rheumatoid nodules.

RA affects different people to a different extent, with some people having relatively few problems, and some having more severe cases. It is more common in older people and women, but can affect anyone at any age. It can flare up and settle down at different times.

Rheumatoid vs Osteoarthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that actively attacks your own healthy tissue. In comparison to this osteoarthritis is a non-inflammatory joint disease, which is caused by wear-and-tear, injury or damage resulting from longer term functional problems with the way you move.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Joint warmth
  • Reduced joint range of motion
  • Limping
  • Joint deformity
  • Joint stiffness
  • Fever
  • Anaemia
  • Loss of energy

What can you do?

When there is flare of pain and inflammation of the joints it is recommended that you rest joints, however, when the inflammation decreases gentle exercises such as slow walking, yoga, tai chi, and water walking is advised to reduce joint immobility and stiffening.

How can your podiatrist help?

Podiatrists can help in lots of ways for those with rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Footwear advice
  • Suggestions for exercise/stretching
  • Orthotics to relieve pain, keep you mobile and help you to walk better
  • Laser therapy
  • Surgical correction of deformities and rheumatoid nodules.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, come in and see us to see how we can help.