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Arthritis in Feet: A Guide for the Elderly

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms
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Elderly people can develop arthritis anywhere. But when it develops in the foot, there are additional concerns at play.

Arthritis in feet can cause typical arthritis symptoms including pain, swelling and stiffness, and it is important to treat these symptoms. However, foot arthritis is also important because the health of our feet greatly affects our balance – and poor balance can raise the risk of falls in the elderly. Moreover, arthritis in feet can actually change the shape of an older person’s foot, potentially affecting the fit of shoes and causing further foot problems.

Where in the feet can seniors experience foot arthritis symptoms, and what types of arthritis can affect an elderly person’s feet? Is big toe arthritis the same as arthritis in the rest of the foot? We’ll discuss these questions and more in this blog post.

What types of arthritis can affect the feet?

You may already know that arthritis isn’t actually one condition. There are many different types of arthritis ranging from the very common to the very rare. These different forms of arthritis can arise from different causes and have differing symptoms, but what they generally have in common is that they affect joints in the body.

In this piece, we’ll discuss several common types of foot arthritis and how they produce symptoms in an older person’s feet.


Osteoarthritis is a very common form of arthritis. In fact, in the over-sixties, it’s estimated that osteoarthritis affects one in ten men and nearly one in five women.

Why is osteoarthritis so common in the elderly? That’s because it’s a condition of ‘wear and tear.’ Over the years, the stresses and strains of daily life can cause the smooth, protective cartilage in a joint to wear away. Without sufficient cartilage, other parts of the joint like tendons are put under more strain. The end result can be pain, stiffness and swollen joints.

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the foot. However, it often manifests as big toe arthritis because the big toe plays such a large part in walking and suffers more wear and tear. Consequentially, big toe arthritis can have a large impact on a senior’s ability to walk smoothly.

Foot osteoarthritis can cause changes in the shape of the foot, which can lead to problems such as bunions. Big toe arthritis can also progress into hallux rigidus, which is when the big toe becomes completely stiff.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis typically also causes pain, stiffness and swelling in an older person’s joints. However, the cause of this condition is different from that of osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body’s immune system attacks the joints for reasons that aren’t yet fully understood. These attacks cause inflammation, which means that symptoms of warmth and, on some skin tones, redness are also seen in rheumatoid arthritis.

Another way in which rheumatoid arthritis in the feet differs from foot osteoarthritis is that rheumatoid arthritis usually develops on both sides of the body in the same way, symmetrically, whereas with osteoarthritis it’s more possible to have symptoms in one foot but not the other.

Rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint in the foot. It can cause significant changes in foot shape, resulting in calluses and bunions. It can also result in significant toe problems like claw toes and hammertoes.

Post-traumatic arthritis

Post-traumatic arthritis is not an autoimmune condition like rheumatoid arthritis. It’s actually quite similar to osteoarthritis, except that damage to the cartilage in a joint is caused by an injury rather than wear and tear over time. However, the foot arthritis symptoms will be very similar to those of osteoarthritis.

Post-traumatic arthritis can affect any part of the foot that’s injured, but it’s common for it to happen in the middle of the foot.

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is like rheumatoid arthritis in that it’s an autoimmune condition resulting from the immune system attacking the joints. It sometimes accompanies the skin condition psoriasis.

Like the other types of arthritis, psoriatic can cause pain, swelling and stiffness. Unique attributes of psoriatic arthritis in feet include pitting in the toenails and swelling in the toes that gives them a smooth, ‘sausage-like’ look.


Yes, gout is actually a form of arthritis! It’s different from the other types of arthritis in the feet that we’ve discussed because it’s caused by a build-up of uric acid in the body, somewhat related to diet. Gout generally affects the toes and particularly the big toe, and its hallmark is severe pain as well as redness and swelling.

How SureSafe can offer peace of mind for older people with arthritis in feet

It's clear that arthritis in feet can seriously affect a person’s ability to walk, particularly if they are experiencing big toe arthritis. That’s why seniors with foot arthritis and big toe arthritis may worry about falling if they’re at home alone or when a carer isn’t around.

An automatic fall detection alarm can provide peace of mind. For seniors whose balance and smoothness of walking is affected by pain, stiffness, swelling and even bunions and hammertoes in the feet, an automatic fall detection alarm ensures that if a fall occurs, help will be on the way immediately. It senses a fall and calls for help without the need for the alarm wearer to do anything.

When it comes to choosing your fall detection alarm, you have options. A family and friends alarm contacts loved ones when it senses that an older person has fallen, while a 24/7 monitoring alarm connects to an expert response centre that’s there to help at any time of the day or night.

Whichever type of alarm you’re looking for, SureSafe are experts in personal alarms for the elderly that are designed to protect older people with foot arthritis symptoms who are worried about their stability and risk of a fall. To learn more, give us a call at 0800 112 3201, or reach out through our live chat. You can also request a call back.

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