Footcare Scotland - The Foot & Ankle Experts
Rheumatoid Arthritis

How does Rheumatoid Arthritis affect my feet?

Rheumatoid Arthritis can reduce your mobility and quality of life.  Read on for tips to manage your painful feet.

What is Rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and pain in your joints.  Rheumatoid arthritis attacks the lining of the joints, unlike osteo–arthritis, which is caused by wear and tear to the joints. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis generally develop over a period of time, but in some cases can progress quickly.

What are the symptoms?

The pain most often associated with rheumatoid arthritis is usually a throbbing and aching pain.  This it is often worse in the mornings and after a period of rest. As well as pain, your joints may feel stiff, especially in the morning. Because rheumatoid arthritis causes swelling of the joints, they may also feel hot and tender to touch. In some cases, rheumatoid nodules (firm swellings) may develop under the skin around painful joints. Although RA mainly affects your joints, other symptoms include a lack of energy, fever, weight loss and lack of appetite.

Pain and stiffness in the hands and feet

The joints of the hands and feet are often the 1st to be affected.  Up to 90% of people with this condition will report associated problems with their feet.  The metatarsal phalangeal joints (ball of the foot) are most often affected; other common deformities caused by rheumatoid arthritis are hallux valgus (bunions) and hammer toes. The natural fatty padding on the balls of feet is often affected.  It can slip forward underneath the toes, which can cause a sensation like walking on stones.

It is common for the arch to collapse and for the back of the foot to bend outwards (valgus hindfoot). Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the ankle joint, leading to pain, stiffness and difficulty walking.

Others problems

Due to the change in shape of the foot, the development of corns and calluses (hard skin) is very common especially over high-pressure areas: these may develop into areas of ulceration (pressure sores). Some people with rheumatoid arthritis can experience poor circulation to the feet and legs, caused by hardening of the arteries. This can lead to cramp like pains, especially in the calf muscles, thigh and buttock muscles when walking but also makes healing more difficult. Some people may also experience peripheral neuropathy, which leads to a lack of sensation in the feet. Due to these factors, it is imperative to seek professional advice if you are suffering from symptoms affecting your feet. Regular treatments and checkups with your podiatrist cannot only keep your feet comfortable and keep you mobile but also help prevent infection and ulceration.

How is it treated?

To prevent painful corns and calluses and to limit the chances of you developing pressure sores/ulceration, you should look to wear a shoe that comfortably accommodates your foot. You may require a shoe that has a deeper and wider toe-box than regular shoes, and that supports your arch. Special insoles, called orthoses, can also be very helpful in maintaining comfort and mobility. We design and manufacture these insoles to reduce pressure on painful areas, support the arch and reduce stress on painful tendons and ligaments.

If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and have painful or uncomfortable feet, we highly recommend you see a podiatrist regularly. If you have RA but do not have any foot symptoms, it is recommended that you have a check up twice a year to help prevent any problems occurring.

If you have concerns about your feet, book an appointment today with a podiatrist in Edinburgh or a podiatrist in Perth to see how we can improve your quality of life and mobility.  Tel: (01738) 451567 or BOOK NOW

Article by Alastair Dall