Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the feet, causing swelling and erosion of the joints and changes to the alignment of your feet. This can put too much strain on the ligaments and tendons and leave you with foot pain and changes to your gait, which can make it uncomfortable to walk even short distances. Visit a podiatric practice to get diagnosed and receive a treatment plan for foot problems associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Here's an overview of three foot problems associated with rheumatoid arthritis:

Achilles Tendinopathy

Your Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel and enables you to flex your foot. Scar tissue can form around the tendon and restrict movement when too much pressure is put on the tendon, and this can cause swelling and pain around your heel. Your podiatrist can diagnose Achilles tendinopathy by asking you to flex your foot in different directions and noting your range of movement. 

Achilles tendinopathy can be treated with anti-inflammatory medication and rest, which can help bring down the swelling. Your podiatrist can also show you how to loosen up the tendon with gentle exercises such as toe stretches and calf stretches. If conservative treatment fails, you may need surgery to remove the scar tissue surrounding the tendon, which will improve the range of movement in your foot.

Fallen Arches

Joint erosion can leave the arches of your feet without sufficient support, which can cause them to collapse. Flat feet can leave you with calf pain, swelling and aching feet, but it's also common for sufferers to experience changes to their gait as they try to compensate for the altered shape of their feet. Your podiatrist can diagnose fallen arches by examining your feet and observing how you walk.

Fallen arches are typically treated with custom-made orthotic insoles, which lift the arches into their natural position and provide support. They can also be made to alter the way your weight is distributed across your feet, which can help reduce swelling. If the swelling is particularly bad, your podiatrist may refer you to your rheumatologist for a course of corticosteroid injections in your feet.

Hammer Toes

This is a condition caused by damage to your toe joints, which causes a deformity affecting the middle toes. The middle joint of each affected toe gradually bends upwards, forcing your toes to curl under. The affected toes will rub against the tops of your shoes and can develop calluses and corns as a result. Your podiatrist will use X-rays to determine the extent of the damage to your toe joints and devise a treatment plan based on the results.

Treatment for hammer toes can include custom-made shoes with a larger toe area to prevent rubbing and exercises such as picking up light items with your toes. The aim of the exercises is to strengthen you toe muscles, which can encourage the joints to stretch out. Toe regulators can also be used straighten your toes. They consist of a thin sole with loops of soft material that fit over your toes, and the material can be tightened to hold your toes in position.

If you're concerned about the health of your feet or notice any pain or swelling, schedule an appointment with your podiatrist for a foot assessment.