Published: Nov. 11, 2010
Updated: Dec. 29, 2010
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease affecting the lining of joints and destroys bones, joints and tissues. The condition often starts in smaller joints, like those found in the foot. A symptom of severe rheumatoid arthritis is deformity of the foot.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes toe joints to swell and can cause severe destruction of the joints of the foot. Joint inflammation starts with inflammation of the lining of the joints called the capsule.
As the capsule becomes inflamed, the joint fills with fluid, becomes painful, and the cartilage lining of the joint may wear out. The joint space becomes narrow and bone begins to rub on bone, leading to painful arthritis.
Deformities may occur as a result of loosening of the ligaments and capsule lining of the joint. If the capsule loosens up significantly, the joints may dislocate. This is common in the front of the foot.
Rheumatoid foot deformity is characterized by:
If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and begin to experience the symptoms as outlined above, you may have rheumatoid foot deformity.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive condition and foot deformity often becomes a symptom in arthritic patients within 10 years.
A physical examination by your doctor will help with diagnosis. X-ray imaging, ultrasound, or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may confirm diagnosis.
There are two main goals in treating rheumatoid foot deformity:
This can be achieved by:
Surgery: Surgery on the toes, particularly on the knuckle joints of the toes (metatarsophalangeal joints), is typically recommended in the condition's early stages. Common procedures include:
Though surgery is the most direct way of treating rheumatoid foot deformity, it's not recommended for everyone. Nonsurgical options include:
Watch an educational video about treatments for rheumatoid arthritis of the foot and ankle.