Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle

Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease that attacks multiple joints in the body, including both feet and both ankles. Symptoms often appear in the toes first, then progress to the back of the foot and ankles. Many people with rheumatoid arthritis in other parts of the body eventually develop symptoms related to the foot and ankle.


Researchers still do not fully understand the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis. It is most likely the result of genetics and environmental conditions. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system turns against itself and attacks the joints, causing cartilage damage and bone loss around the joints.


Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis of the foot and ankle include pain, swelling, and stiffness. Symptoms are often worse in the morning or after inactivity and can affect mobility. Other conditions may develop as the condition worsens, including corns, bunions, and hammertoes.


In order to diagnose and treat rheumatoid arthritis of the foot and ankle, physicians will ask about symptoms and assess medical history. X-rays are used to understand how much damage has occured to joints in the foot and ankle. Blood tests may also be used to determine if rheumatoid arthritis is present.


Rheumatoid arthritis of the foot and ankle is usually treated effectively with anti-inflammatory medications and antirheumatic drugs, including biologics. Special orthotic devices and physical therapy are also effective. Surgery may be required in severe cases where pain interferes with daily activities and limits range of motion.

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