Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes your body’s immune system mistakenly to attack and inflame healthy tissue, especially in the lining of your joints.

More than 90 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis develop foot and ankle symptoms over the course of the disease. About 70% of people with RA reported foot pain within 3 years of the disease onset.

The joint inflammation can be painful and cause swelling. In time, the inflammation can damage the joints. RA can have periods of remission and flare-up.

The cause of RA isn’t known, and there’s no cure yet. But a variety of treatment options can help you manage the disease. The earlier you begin to treat RA in your ankles, the better your outcome.

Rheumatoid arthritis and the ankle

RA attacks your joints, most often starting with the hands and feet, and usually on both sides of your body. It can also cause problems in other body tissues and organs.

Your ankle joins your leg and foot. It’s composed of three bones: the shinbone (tibia), the calf bone (fibula), and the ankle bone (talus).

The lining of your joints (synovium) is lubricated with synovial fluid so that your joint glides when you move. When the lining becomes inflamed, over time it causes the joint, ligaments, and cartilage to become damaged.

Bones in your ankles can weaken as cartilage and tissues are damaged, causing bones to rub against each other. RA in your ankles can make it painful to walk and make your movement unsteady.


RA in your ankles usually starts with mild symptoms that progressively worsen. At first, RA symptoms in your ankles or feet can be subtle and difficult to distinguish as RA.

It’s important to diagnose and treat RA in your ankles as early as possible. The damage is not reversible, but treatment can slow its progression.

Here are some symptoms of RA in your ankles:

  • pain
  • inflammation
  • stiffness
  • tenderness, warmth, redness
  • Achilles tendon pain
  • Slower walking speed
  • Unsteadiness of motion
  • pain in the morning and night
  • difficulty standing
  • lack of balance

RA in your ankles is often accompanied by RA in your feet. You may develop:

  • bunions or corns
  • toe misalignment, claw toes, or hammer toes
  • bursitis
  • rheumatoid nodule (lumps) below the skin on the foot
  • pain in the ball of your foot
  • collapse of arch
  • change in your foot shape

Because RA is a systemic disease, you may also have other symptoms, including:

  • fatigue
  • low grade fever
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • muscles weakness


What does it feel like?

RA pain in your ankles may be difficult to pinpoint at first. Your ankle may hurt in the morning, or at night, but not constantly.

At first, you may notice difficulty in walking uphill, or on ramps or steps. This movement puts more pressure on your ankles.

The pain is different from that of a fracture or strain, and not sharp. But the swelling, warmth, and redness may be similar to those that come from ankle trauma.

As RA progresses, symptoms will intensify and occur more frequently.


Treatment plans vary per individual. Particular medications may work for some people with RA and not others. You’ll also need to be examined and tested periodically to see if you need new or different treatments, during the course of the disease.

But in every case, aggressive treatment as early as possible leads to reduction in inflammation and better outcomes.

Using orthotic devices early on to correct bio-mechanical problems caused by ankle RA is often helpful.





Call us today to resolve your foot pain.


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