Patient Guide: Rheumatoid Arthritis

Many people with this form of arthritis develop foot or ankle symptoms

ROSEMONT, Ill. (May 22, 2015) – If you’ve been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you should know that 90 percent of people with RA eventually develop symptoms of the feet or ankles. Symptoms usually appear in the toes and forefeet first and then the back of the feet. Later there may be symptoms in the ankles.
RA is a disease that affects the joints. The most common symptoms of RA in the foot are pain, swelling and stiffness. These usually appear in several joints of both feet. You may feel pain in the joint or in the sole or ball of your foot. The joint may also feel warm, and your walking may be affected.
While RA typically is managed by rheumatologists, orthopaedic foot and ankle specialists are medical doctors who can help manage the foot and ankle symptoms associated with the disease. These orthopaedic specialists can order X-rays of the feet and ankles to see the condition of the joints. They can also order lab tests to help confirm the diagnosis. Rheumatoid arthritis is just one of several types of arthritis and needs its own treatment.
The treatment for foot and ankle complications of RA can include medications, exercises and special shoes. In advanced cases where RA has severely damaged joints, surgery may be an option to relieve pain. To learn more about the full scope of foot and ankle complications and treatments, visit the Rheumatoid Arthritis page at, a patient education site from the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society.
About the AOFAS
The AOFAS promotes quality, ethical and cost-effective patient care through the education, research and training of orthopaedic surgeons and other health care providers. The Society creates public awareness for the prevention and treatment of foot and ankle disorders, provides leadership, and serves as a resource for government and industry as well as the national and international health care communities.​
About Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons
Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the foot and ankle. Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons use medical, physical and rehabilitative methods as well as surgery to treat patients of all ages. Relying on four years of medical school training, five years of post-graduate training and often a fellowship in foot and ankle care, orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons perform reconstructive procedures, treat sports injuries, and manage and treat trauma of the foot and ankle.
Jennifer Hicks
Director of Public Education