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Arthritis in the Big Toe Joint

Big toe joint pain can be caused by many reasons but arthritis is one of the most common causes. Arthritis occurs when cartilage in the joints wears down and exposed bone rub against each other. This bone to bone interaction causes inflammation and then pain.

Common causes of big toe joint arthritis include faulty function or biomechanical abnormalities. For example, flat feet can cause increased pressure through the big toe joint which can lead to the type of arthritis called osteoarthritis or wear and tear arthritis. Another common cause of osteoarthritis is injury. Simply stubbing your big toe 10 years earlier can cause osteoarthritis. Inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or gout can also cause arthritis of the big toe joint.

Symptoms of big toe arthritis include:
Pain, (even during rest), Difficulty wearing shoes (because of potential bone spurs), and possibly changes in how you walk.

Diagnosing big toe joint arthritis can be performed by a podiatrist, also known as a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM), or a foot and ankle orthopedist. The diagnosis is made by examining the foot and a simple foot x-ray.

Treatment for big toe joint arthritis includes non-surgical and surgical options. The first thing to try is shoe modification. Supportive shoes with a large toe box and stiff rocker sole is recommended. Arch supports or orthotics can help by improving foot function and reducing pressure. Medications such as NSAIDS (Motrin, Advil) can help or a prescription anti-inflammatory may work. Cortisone injection into the big toe joint can be very effective at reducing swelling and pain. If non-surgical treatments do not provide enough relief, procedures such as cheilectomy (an operation that removes the bony lump on the joint of the big toe) or joint fusion may be recommended.

Written by:
Jeffrey S. Hurless, DPM
DPM, FACFAS Board Certified Foot & Ankle Surgeon/Podiatrist
Medical Director, HealthyFeetStore.com
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