The feet are the base of the human body and can influence the function of everything above them. Discomfort or deformity in the foot, ankle or toes can be detrimental to self-confidence, balance, walking and exercise. With orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Alexis Dixon bringing a new focus to the practice, DISC has compiled a list of five common foot and ankle problems.
Arthritis – Inflammation of one or more joints, causing pain and stiffness. Arthritis can affect any joint in the body and usually develops in one of three ways. Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative or wear and tear arthritis, occurs when the cartilage in the joint slowly wears away with use and age. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the connective tissue covering the joint. Posttraumatic Arthritis is the most common cause of ankle arthritis and can develop after an injury, such as a dislocation or fracture. This may become apparent years or decades after the initial injury when the cartilage lining the joint become wears down. While there is no way to reverse the effects of arthritis, treatment may include lifestyle modifications, physical therapy, assistive devices, medications, and sometimes surgery. Surgery may include fusion or joint replacement.
Bunions (Hallux Valgus) – A bunion is a painful, bony prominence that forms on the joint at the base of the big toe. Bunions form when the bones that make up the joint at the base of the big toe move out of alignment. Over time, the long metatarsal in the big toe shifts in towards the second toe, causing the joint to appear enlarged and protrude from the inside of the foot. When this occurs on the small toe or “pinky” toe on the outside of the foot, it is referred to as a bunionette. Bunions can be hereditary or caused by wearing shoes that don’t fit properly. After a physical examination and x-ray, your doctor may recommend conservative treatments such as changes in footwear, padding, orthotics or medications. However, surgery may be necessary if conservative treatments do not succeed in relieving pain or if you still have difficulty walking.
Flatfoot – Flatfoot is a common condition in which the entire sole of the foot touches the ground when standing. Flatfoot can occur during childhood if the arches of the feet do not develop properly, but it can also occur after an injury or from the normal wear and tear that comes with aging. Although many people with flatfeet may have no pain and experience no symptoms, others can feel pain or swelling that can increase with physical activity. Treatment is only necessary for flatfeet if they cause pain but typically begins with arch supports, stretching exercises and physical therapy. When it is accompanied by severe tendinitis or arthritis, surgery is sometimes necessary.
Hammertoe – A hammertoe is a deformity that can occur in any of the three middle toes in which the toe is bent down at the middle joint, causing pain or immobility of the affected toe. Hammer toe is primarily caused by improperly fitting or tight, constricting shoes. Over time, the pressure being exerted on the toe causes the muscles to contract to the point that they can no longer straighten the toe even when there is no shoe. If addressed early, hammertoes are flexible and can be managed with simple solutions such as wearing roomier shoes or simple stretching exercises. If left untreated, the hammertoe can become fixed and may require surgery to prevent wound complications.
Tendinitis – Tendons are bands of connective tissue that link muscle to bone. When those tendons become inflamed or irritated it is called tendinitis. Tendinitis can occur in many different parts of the body in addition to the foot and ankle. Usually, tendinitis is caused by overuse, when the tendon is repeatedly overloaded either via activity or stretching. Other causes of tendinitis in the foot and ankle include injury, abnormal foot structure or inflammatory conditions such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment for tendonitis typically involves rest, icing and compression, however it is important to determine what caused the tendinitis in the first place. Chronic injury to the tendon may result in tears that ultimately require surgery.
About Dr. Alexis Dixon
Dr. Alexis Dixon is an orthopedic foot and ankle specialist at DISC where she commonly diagnoses and treats arthritis of the foot and ankle, tendinitis and tears of the peroneal, Achilles, and posterior tibial tendons, flatfoot deformity, osteochondral lesions, plantar fasciitis, hallux valgus/bunions, hallux rigidus/arthritis of the great toe, deformities of the lesser toes, metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma, ankle sprains and turf toe, among all other injuries of the foot and ankle, including sports and degenerative injuries.
About the author
Dr. Alexis E. Dixon Dr. Alexis Dixon is an orthopedic foot and ankle specialist at DISC where she commonly diagnoses and treats arthritis of the foot and ankle, tendinitis and tears of the peroneal, Achilles, and posterior tibial tendons, flatfoot deformity, osteochondral lesions, plantar fasciitis, hallux valgus/bunions, hallux rigidus/arthritis of the great toe, deformities of the lesser toes, metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma, ankle sprains and turf toe, among all other injuries of the foot and ankle, including sports and degenerative injuries. Read more articles by Dr. Alexis E. Dixon.