What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a general term for a group of more than 100 diseases. The word "arthritis" means "joint inflammation." Arthritis involves inflammation (swelling) in and around the body's joints. Pain, stiffness, and swelling can result from inflammation. Arthritis is an acute or chronic inflammation of a joint and its surrounding soft tissues. In arthritis, progressive joint deterioration occurs and the smooth "cushioning" cartilage in joints is gradually lost, resulting in the bones wearing against each other. Soft tissues in the joints also may begin to wear down. Arthritis can be painful and eventually can result in limited motion, loss of joint function, and deformities in the joints affected.

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis or "wear-and-tear" arthritis, which becomes more prominent as people age. Osteoarthritis also can develop after joint is injured.

How does arthritis affect the foot and ankle?

Each foot has 28 bones and more than 30 joints. The most common foot joints that arthritis affects are:

  • The joint where the ankle and shinbone meet.
  • The 3 joints of the foot that involve the heel bone, the inner mid-foot bone, and the outer mid-foot bone.
  • The joint of the big toe and foot bone.

What are the symptoms of foot and ankle arthritis?

Symptoms of foot and ankle arthritis often involve the following:

  • Tenderness or pain.
  • Reduced ability to move or walk.
  • Stiffness in the joint.
  • Swelling in the joint.

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