Cunha describes arthritis as acute or chronic inflammation of a joint and its surrounding soft tissues.
Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis are all the three major types of arthritis that commonly affect the foot and ankle.
Osteoarthritis is most commonly experienced in those middle-age and older, but can sometimes occur in younger people. Also known as degenerative arthritis, this is when the cartilage in the joint begins to wear away gradually, which can cause the painful sensation of bone rubbing on bone. In osteoarthritis, pain and stiffness worsens with time.
Rhematoid arthritis, on the other hand, is a chronic autoimmune disease, meaning it occurs from the immune system attacking its own tissues. It can affect multiple joints throughout the body but commonly begins in the foot and ankle. While the exact cause is not known, rheumatoid arthritis is typically triggered by an infection or environmental factor.
Posttraumatic arthritis can emerge after a specific injury in the foot or ankle, such as dislocation or a fracture. The impact is similar to osteoarthritis, with the cartilage wearing away between the joints. Even with proper treatment, an injured joint is almost seven times more likely than an uninjured joint to develop arthritis.
Per Cunha, arthritis in your feet can cause discomfort or pain that can eventually lead to limited motion, loss of joint function, and deformities in your affected joints.
“In arthritis, progressive joint deterioration occurs and the smooth, gliding surface covering the ends of bones (cartilage), which serves to cushion the joint, is gradually lost, resulting in the bones wearing against each other,” he explains.