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Foot Care Advice For Rheumatology Patients

Painful Arthritic Feet

There are 26 bones in the foot that help it to adapt to different surfaces we walk on as well as absorbing mechanical shock. Arthritis can result in pain and abnormal joint movement in our feet but not all foot pain is due to arthritis and hence proper examination is crucial.

Different types of arthritis can affect different parts of the foot. Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the smaller joints whereas osteoarthritis often involves the bigger joint, eg. big toe.

The pain may be intermittent. Rheumatoid arthritis may cause early morning stiffness initially which may later progress to more severe pain. Osteoarthritis tends to cause pain that increases with activity and settles with rest. The foot may become deformed with the presence of lesser toe deformity, making it difficult to walk as well as fitting into the shoes.

It is important to remember that the foot cannot be isolated from the rest of the body. If your walking is faulty, then your body will compensate in some way which may well affect your posture, hips, knees, foot, and ankles.

How can I avoid foot problems?

Here are some practical guidelines to help you avoid complications:

  • Avoid smoking - blood circulation to the legs is reduced by smoking.

  • Daily hygiene is critical - wash daily in warm water.

  • Test the temperature with your elbow before putting your feet in it.

  • Dry feet well especially in between your toes.

  • Check your feet daily, use a mirror to check the soles of both feet or get assistance from someone to check your feet daily.

  • Permit free circulation of the blood, do not wear garters, tight socks or shoes. Do not sit with legs crossed.

  • Always wear socks or stockings and shoes (rather than flat slippers). Don’t risk cuts which could cause infection. Make sure the shoes are adequately fitting.

  • Do not attempt self-treatment by using corn plasters or cures that contain chemicals that are caustic.

  • Cut toenails straight across, level with the ends of the toes. Do not cut down the sides or poke anything down the side. Click here for complete instructions.

  • Do not use hot water bottles to keep your feet warm, or sit too close to the heater. Avoid extreme temperature changes.

  • Massage a moisturising cream into your feet regularly, especially if the skin is dry and scaly.

  • If you have corns or callus, if you have difficulty cutting your own nails or you are experiencing other foot problems, see a podiatrist on a regular basis. As always, when in doubt, seek advice from your podiatrist or doctor.

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