What Is Arthritis?

Degenerative arthritis is a condition that slowly wears away joints (the link where bones meet and move). In the beginning, you may notice that the affected joint seems stiff. It may even ache. As the joint lining (cartilage) breaks down, the bones rub against each other, causing pain and swelling. Over time, bone spurs (small pieces of rough or splintered bone) develop, and the joint’s range of motion becomes limited. But movement doesn’t have to cause pain. The effects of arthritis can be reduced. Talk with your doctor about developing a treatment plan to meet your needs.

Which Joints Are Affected?

Your feet pound the pavement every day. They support and propel your body as you move through life. Such constant use takes a toll. Aging, the wear and tear of daily use, and injury; these are the common causes of arthritis. Many people eventually develop some arthritis in their feet.

Other Joints

When arthritis affects the rear or mid-foot joints, you feel pain when you put weight on your foot. Arthritis may affect the joint where the ankle and foot meet. It may also affect other joints nearby.

The Big-Toe Joint

When arthritis affects your big toe, your foot hurts when it pushes off the ground. Arthritis often appears in the big-toe joint along with a bunion (a bony bump at the side of the joint).

Physical Exam

To learn the cause of your joint problem, your doctor asks about your medical history. He or she also examines your feet for skin changes and swelling. The range of motion in any joint affected by arthritis may be tested as well. With a simple hands-on test, your doctor can find out how far a joint moves before pain occurs.

Imaging Tests

You may have an imaging test to check the condition of a joint. X-rays show damage to bone, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can show damage to the joint lining.

Treating Arthritis

If your symptoms are mild, medications may be enough to reduce pain and swelling. For more severe arthritis, surgery may be needed to improve the condition of the joint.


Your doctor may prescribe medication-pills or injections to limit pain and swelling. Ice, aspirin, or ibuprofen may help relieve mild symptoms that occur after activity.

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