Whether you’re missing out on skiing, hiking, or experience pain walking from one room to another, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) often affects every aspect of your life. RA is a painful, chronic disease which commonly affects the feet and other joints. Signs and symptoms may vary—from soreness and swelling of the feet that lasts a few days, to prolong pain that comes with the disease eroding the joint and changing a foot’s shape.
We asked Fairview Range’s Dr. Stacey Helland, DPM, about the signs and symptoms that may indicate a patient has RA, and what tips and treatment options are available to help manage the disease.
What exactly is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?
“Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body starts to attack its own joints which results in inflammation and pain within the affected joints,” explains Helland. “RA commonly affects the feet.”
What tips do you have for patients when it comes to managing Rheumatoid Arthritis pain?
“Primary management of RA is often with medications prescribed by the patient’s primary care provider and/or rheumatologist,” clarifies Helland. “Foot pain that results from deformities caused by RA are often treated by a podiatrist with both conservative and surgical treatment options. Conservative treatment usually consists of accommodative shoe inserts that are designed by an orthotist to take the pressure off the painful prominences of the foot. Surgical treatment is reserved for patients who do not have pain relief from conservative management.”
What are indications that you may have RA?
“Symptoms of RA may include increased joint pain, swelling and stiffness for longer than six weeks, pain in multiple joints of the body, stiffness in the joints every morning that lasts longer than 30 minutes, and pain in the same joints on both sides of the body,” says Helland. “If you experience these symptoms (especially if you have a positive family history of RA), present this to your primary care provider at your evaluation.”
Is there any footwear that can help with RA pain?
“Ask a shoe specialist at a shoe store for help with finding proper shoe gear,” recommends Helland. “Shoes that have a deeper and wider toe box will generally accommodate prominent and painful foot joints. A custom, accommodative shoe insert may also decrease foot pain. This can be prescribed by a podiatrist or primary care provider and is often made by a local orthotist.”
While RA can cause pain and swelling in your feet, it can also cause loss of function in other joints, such as wrists and fingers and it can affect other areas of your body including your mouth, lungs, and eyes. It’s possible to live a fulfilling life without the chronic foot pain of RA by listening to the recommendations of your doctor, staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking care of your body.