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Foot Health: Rheumatoid arthritis affects
the feet in up to 90 percent of sufferers

By Dr. Nicole G. Freels
KyForward columnist

Have you been suffering lately from joint and pain swelling, fatigue or stiffness, especially in the morning or after sitting for long periods?
You may have rheumatoid arthritis. You’re not alone. One in every 100 Americans is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

What does rheumatoid arthritis do?
Rheumatoid arthritis is most commonly found in the small joints of the hands, wrists and feet but can also attack organs, with symptoms like dry eyes and mouth, chest pain and shortness of breath, low red and white blood cell counts and carpal tunnel syndrome.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, up to 90 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis will develop problems with their feet or ankles, impacting the toes and front of the feet first and then progressing into the back of the feet and then the ankles.
How can I avoid rheumatoid arthritis?
Although doctors have not yet found the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, they have long suspected that there’s a hereditary link that may cause some patients to be predisposed to it. Unfortunately for women, it is more likely to develop in females than in males.
There are, however, certain lifestyle traits that can help prevent this painful disease. Smoking, for instance, is said to be a cause of rheumatoid arthritis because the habit is common in patients who are diagnosed. A new study in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases reports that one-third of the most severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis are linked to smoking.
Another prevention tip is to try to lower your anxiety levels. According to many doctors, worry and anxiety not only increase your risk of flare-ups, but may even be a contributing factor to the disease’s development in the first place.

Treating rheumatoid arthritis
It’s important to know that there isn’t just one simple test to diagnose it. Instead, doctors look at a series of factors overall including symptoms, history, blood work and sometimes diagnose via x-rays.
The most important thing to do if you think you might have rheumatoid arthritis is to see a doctor as soon as possible. By diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis and creating a treatment plan early on, a huge difference can be made in the long-term progression of the disease.

Dr. Nicole G. Freels is a foot doctor at Lexington Podiatry and the Kentucky Heel Pain Center.

For more Foot Health columns, click here.

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