What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is defined as the deterioration or reduction of the cartilage in a joint where the cartilage becomes thinner. As of a certain degree of wear of the cartilage, we can speak of osteoarthritis. In most cases, age is the reason for the deterioration of the cartilage. Another reason, however, for a substantial loss of cartilage may also be injury to the joint.
Osteoarthritis of the foot very often affects the big toe joint. The osteoarthritis in this area is also known as Hallux rigidus. Hallux is another name for ‘big toe’. The name Hallux valgus derives from the fact that the mobility of the big toe decreases/or the big toe becomes rigid. The decrease in the mobility of the toe is caused by the presence of so called osteophytes that form on top of the joint (on the back of the foot). Osteophytes are appositions of bone. The reasons for pain are, on one hand, are the osteophytes causing pressure against the shoe, and, on the other hand, the deterioration of the cartilage, which on its own makes movement of the joint painful.
Another location for the manifestation of osteoarthritis in the foot is frequently the ankle joint. The most common cause of arthritis of the ankle is an accident in which the bones of the ankle suffer a fracture and cartilage is damaged. Damage to the joint can lead to arthritis in the ankle. In other cases, rheumatic disease or simple overuse play a role in the development of ankle osteoarthritis.
Depending on the stage of osteoarthritis of the big toe joint (hallux rigidus), different types of therapy are applied.
In the early stages of hallux rigidus, therapy consists primarily of physiotherapy (to improve mobility), infiltrations and insoles.
If the pain in the foot increases and the degree of osteoarthritis has not progressed too far, a minor surgical procedure helps. During this surgical procedure, the osteophytes caused by the osteoarthritis are removed, improving mobility of the joint and reducing pain.
In the treatment of osteoarthritis of the ankle, it is important to notify any deformities that may trigger an additional overload to the cartilage. In those cases, surgical techniques are applied to correct the deformity. The axis of the ankle should be improved so that the load is evenly distributed on the joint and progression of osteoarthritis is prevented.
In highly advanced stages of osteoarthritis, stiffening of the joint is the gold standard in the treatment of hallux rigidus. After this type of surgery, the patient can walk and even perform sports pain free.
In the treatment of osteoarthritis of the ankle, it is important to notify any deformities that may trigger an additional overload to the cartilage. In those cases surgical techniques are applied to correct the deformity. The axis of the ankle should be improved so that the load is evenly distributed onto the joint and progression of osteoarthritis is prevented.
In advanced stages of ankle arthritis either a prosthesis is implanted into the ankle joint or the ankle is fused. The choice of method depends on the type of arthritis, any misalignment and the range of motion of the ankle.