The heat is finally starting to let up here in Arizona. This could not be more evident than when looking at the busy trails. Whether walking, biking or hiking, places like Thunderbird Conservation Park, Camelback Mountain and North Mountain/Shaw Butte are filling up quickly with the vast amount of people wanting to enjoy the break in the heat. Unfortunately, if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, enjoying nice long hikes or bike rides can be quite challenging.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease meaning that your body is actually attacking itself and the normal tissues in the body. In RA, the body’s immune system is reacting to itself and causes severe inflammation. This inflammation targets joints throughout the body; however, the hands and feet are commonly affected. As RA progresses the joints lose their integrity and may become very painful and deformed.
Pain, swelling, stiffness and deformities in your joints are some of the symptoms of RA. Because this is an autoimmune disease, multiple joints are typically affected. When RA affects the feet, the resulting inflammation and deformity leads to structural changes in the joints that can make it very painful to walk or even wear shoes.
Unfortunately there is no cure for RA. Still there are many treatment options that can help limit deformities and decrease pain. A rheumatologist will manage your RA; however, a podiatrist can treat the symptoms of RA in the foot and ankle. Offloading painful areas under your foot with padding or orthotics can be very effective in treating RA joint changes. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) will help decrease the inflammation in the joint while other medications actually aid in slowing the progression of the disease. Additionally, steroid injections may be used to help decrease inflammation and relieve pain. If the RA deformity is severe enough, you and your doctor may consider surgery to correct some of the deformities associated with RA.
Enjoying the cooling weather may be difficult with RA, however, with the proper treatment team, you may just be able to get outside and enjoy the weather. If you or someone you know has any foot issues, please consider making an appointment with Dr. Gary N. Friedlander or Dr. Jay C. Larson at Sole Foot and Ankle Specialists in Glendale, Arizona.