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Can People With Rheumatoid Arthritis Develop Foot Problems?

Joint Pain In The Feet Can Be A Symptom Of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Joint Pain Might Be A Symptom Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The majority of people with rheumatoid arthritis do develop foot symptoms.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a tough diagnosis to receive, as it is an Autoimmune Disease that can cause severe pain and joint deformity and also is incurable. However, the treatment options available are the most advanced they have ever been—and are allowing many people with RA who would have otherwise been destined for wheelchairs to live full and active lives.

One of the early signs of rheumatoid arthritis is stiffness, pain, and swelling in the hands and feet. The onset is gradual for some and immediate for others, but regardless, most people with RA wake up one day and realize that the joints in the ball or sole of their feet are too painful to walk on. At the same time, they might also notice their fingers stiffen while trying to open a jar, or that they can’t bend certain finger joints while cooking because it’s too painful. As the disease progresses, pain and stiffness may spread to the wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, and hips. 

Parts of the feet affected by RA
When it comes to the feet, RA typically affects the metatarsophalangeal (MTP)joints of the toes. When RA persistently affects the MTP joints, a gradual outward (lateral) shift in the toes can occur. This may cause both feet to develop bunions. RA may also cause shifting of the forefoot and loss of stability, which leads to toe contractures, such as hammertoes. Toe contractures and changes in toe joint flexibility will often lead to calluses and pain beneath the ball of the foot. All of these changes to a foot’s structure and shape can make finding a comfortable shoe more difficult.

An RA sufferer will often experience stiffness in affected joints for one or more hours after awakening, compared with an OA sufferer, whose joint stiffness may diminish after a few minutes of stretching in the morning.

While not everyone will have foot involvement with RA, the majority of people do have some level of it. However, the most important thing to note is that there are many pharmacological treatment options as well as lifestyle interventions that can make a tremendous difference in managing all aspects of the disease, including its foot manifestations. A close relationship with your rheumatologist as well as your foot doctor, who will work to relieve your pain and inflammation, halt joint damage, and improve your sense of well being—will ensure the best outcomes possible throughout the course of your disease.

Contact our offices Laurel Foot & Ankle Center or Northern Virginia Foot & Ankle Associates  and schedule an appointment today.
To learn more about aching feet, go to Heel Pain Institute of America and Laurel Foot & Ankle Center or Northern Virginia Foot & Ankle Associates.


Francis J. Smith, D.P.M., A.B.F.A.S.
Board certified in Foot Surgery and Michael A. Klein, D.P.M. A.B.F.A.S.
Board certified in Foot Surgery​

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