When Foot Pain May Mean Arthritis (2023)

Learn about the various causes of foot pain, including different kinds of arthritis.

Many forms of arthritis and related conditions affect the joints of the foot as well as the skin and toenails. Here are some possible diseases that may cause problems for feet, toes and heels.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. Also known as “wear and tear” arthritis, OA is a chronic condition caused by the breakdown of the cartilage, which cushions the ends of the bones where they meet to form joints. This breakdown causes the bones to rub together, causing stiffness, pain and loss of joint movement. In the foot,OA most commonly affects the big toe, but it can affect the ankle joints and joints of the heel bone, inner and outer mid-foot. Aging and obesity make OA more likely in the feet.

Juvenile Arthritis

Juvenile arthritisis the term used to describe the joint diseases that affect children 16 years and younger. There are different types of JA that can cause pain and swelling in several joints, including ones in the feet.


Goutis a form of inflammatory arthritis that occurs when the body is unable to remove excess uric acid. The turns into needle-shaped crystals and gets deposited in tissues of the body, including the joints. The first symptom of gout is intense pain and swelling in the big toe. Over time, lumps of uric acid may form beneath the skin of the feet.Symptoms include a rapid onset of severe pain, which usually reaches its peak after 4 to 12 hours. Lingering pain from gout attacks can persist for weeks, and later attacks tend to last longer and affect more joints.


Lupusis a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the body's immune system to mistakenly attack healthy tissues, including the joints. The wrist and small joints of the feet are most commonly affected by lupus.In some cases, the toes can also turn blue from sensitivity to cold, a symptom of Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritisis a form of arthritis that affects joints and the skin (psoriasis). PsA can cause swelling of toes (dactylitis), which causes a sausage-like appearance. Psoriasis can affect the skin of the feet and cause toenails to thicken, develop pits and separate from the nail bed.

Getting a Proper Diagnosis

Other common sources of foot pain include fractures, sprains and inflammation of nerves or tendons.

Arthritis is difficult to self-diagnose. Talk with your primary care doctor as soon as possible about your symptoms. You may be referred to a rheumatologist or orthopedist to get an accurate diagnosis so you can get the medical care you need.Left undiagnosed and untreated, your condition may worsen and cause disability.

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