Foot and Ankle Arthritis Specialist

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Dr Poh Seng Yew

MBBS

MRCSEd

MMED (Ortho)

FRCSEd

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What is Arthritis in the Foot and Ankle?

Arthritis is a condition where inflammation occurs in the joints. It can affect the small joints in the feet and ankles. This inflammation leads to the breakdown of articular cartilage, a slippery substance covering the joints which facilitates smooth bone movement during activities.

When this cartilage deteriorates, bones may rub against each other, causing pain, swelling, tenderness, and a reduced range of motion.

Types of Arthritis in the Foot and Ankle

There are three main types of arthritis in the foot and ankle, which are caused by various factors:

Osteoarthritis

This form is often associated with age-related wear and tear, which causes the cartilage to become frayed and rough. This results in bones rubbing together, often accompanied by the formation of bone spurs. Risk factors for this condition include obesity and genetic predisposition.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the joint tissues, particularly the synovium. It leads to damage in bone, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, potentially causing joint deformity.

Posttraumatic Arthritis

This develops following an injury to the foot or ankle, such as fractures or dislocations, which can lead to arthritis in the affected joints​​.

Symptoms and Signs

The symptoms of arthritis in the foot and ankle vary based on the affected joint.


  • Pain with Motion: The affected joint may experience pain during movement. It might also intensify following vigorous activity.
  • Tenderness of the Joints: The joints may feel tender and uncomfortable under pressure.
  • Joint Stiffness: Pain and swelling may increase after periods of inactivity, such as in the morning or after resting. This can cause stiffness.
  • Swelling, Warmth, and Redness: These are common signs of inflammation in the joint.
  • Walking Difficulties: Walking can become challenging​​ due to pain, swelling and stiffness of the feet or the ankles.

Diagnosis

The process of diagnosing arthritis in the foot and ankle involves several steps:

  • Medical History and Physical Examination: The foot and ankle specialist will first review the patient’s medical history and conduct a physical examination. This includes checking for tenderness and swelling in the foot and ankle and observing the patient’s gait to assess the severity and location of the arthritis. The patient’s walking pattern may also be analysed, to assess the impact of arthritis on their foot and ankle.
  • Imaging Tests: X-rays are often used to provide detailed pictures of the bones and to assess the severity of the arthritis, including joint space narrowing and bone spur formation. In certain cases, more detailed imaging tests like MRI scans may be necessary to evaluate the condition of the bone and soft tissues.
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests may be conducted to identify the type of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis can be diagnosed using this method, as specific blood markers indicate the presence of this condition.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

There are several non-surgical treatment options available for arthritis of the foot and ankle. These treatments aim to manage symptoms, maintain mobility, and slow disease progression.

Activity Modifications

Initially, the foot and ankle specialist may suggest modifications such as avoiding activities that worsen pain, switching from high-impact to low-impact activities, and weight loss to reduce joint stress and alleviate symptoms.

Physical Therapy

Tailored exercises can enhance joint flexibility and muscle strength, contributing to pain relief and improved mobility.

Orthotics and Braces

Shoe inserts, custom-made shoes, and braces can provide joint support, reduce pressure on the foot and ankle, and correct deformities.

Medications

Anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers can reduce joint swelling and alleviate pain. In persistent cases, steroid medications may be injected into the joints for relief.

Surgical Treatment Options

When non-surgical treatments are not effective in managing the symptoms of arthritis of the foot and ankle, surgical options may be considered.

Arthroscopic Surgery

This minimally invasive surgery is useful in the early stages of arthritis. It involves using an arthroscope to view and clean the joint area, removing any foreign tissues or bone spurs.

Fusion Surgery (Arthrodesis)

This procedure fuses the bones together, using rods, pins, screws, or plates. The fused bones reduce pain by eliminating motion in the arthritic joint.

Total Ankle Replacement (Arthroplasty)

In this surgery, the damaged cartilage and bone are removed and replaced with artificial implants. This option is considered for patients with advanced arthritis and aims to relieve pain while offering more mobility than fusion.

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Prevention Strategies

While arthritis of the foot and ankle cannot always be prevented, certain strategies can reduce the risk or delay the onset of the condition.

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight - Managing body weight can be beneficial, as excess weight increases stress on the joints.
  • Engage in Regular Exercise - Engaging in low-impact exercises helps maintain joint flexibility and muscle strength.
  • Use Proper Techniques and Equipment to Prevent Injury - Taking precautions to avoid injuries to the foot and ankle, such as using the correct techniques and wearing appropriate protective gear during sports, can prevent posttraumatic arthritis.
  • Use Appropriate Footwear to Support the Feet and Ankles - Wearing shoes that offer good support and cushioning can reduce stress on the foot and ankle joints.
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Dr Poh Seng Yew

MBBS

MRCSEd

MMED (Ortho)

FRCSEd

With over 18 years of experience, Dr Poh Seng Yew is an orthopaedic surgeon specialising in hip, knee, shoulder and elbow surgery, sports medicine, and trauma surgery.

  • Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), National University of Singapore
  • Member, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (MRCSEd)
  • Master of Medicine (Orthopaedic Surgery), National University of Singapore
  • Fellow, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, FRCSEd (Orthopaedic Surgery)
  • Clinical Hip and Sports Medicine Fellow, Orthopädische Chirurgie München (OCM), Germany

 

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Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
38 Irrawaddy Road, #08-62/63
Singapore 329563
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Weekdays: 9.00am – 5.00pm
Saturdays: 9.00am – 1.00pm
Sundays and Public Holidays: Closed

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    Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
    38 Irrawaddy Road, #08-62/63
    Singapore 329563

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    Can Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle Be Cured?

    While arthritis of the foot and ankle is a chronic condition that has no cure, various treatment options can help manage its symptoms. These include lifestyle changes, physical therapy, medications, and in some cases, surgery. Early diagnosis and treatment can help manage the condition and reduce the risk of further joint damage.

    What Exercises Can Help Manage Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle?

    Low-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, or walking can be beneficial for managing arthritis of the foot and ankle. They help maintain joint flexibility and muscle strength without putting excessive stress on the joints. Consult with a foot and ankle specialist for an exercise plan suited to your condition.

    What Happens If Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle Is Left Untreated?

    Leaving arthritis of the foot and ankle untreated may lead to a progression in joint damage, increased pain, and a potential decrease in mobility and quality of life. Early management can help support joint function and reduce the risk of complications.