Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a condition that causes inflammation in many joints of the body but particularly affects the hands, feet, wrists, ankles and knees – and tends to occur symmetrically. For example, if your right big toe is swollen and painful, chances are your left big toe will be too. In addition, as well as joint pain and stiffness, symptoms include muscle aches, anaemia (a low blood count leaving you feeling tired), and fever. The stiffness tends to be worse in the morning and after rest.
Unlike osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear, RA is a chronic inflammatory disease where a faulty immune system attacks the tissue that lines and cushions the joints, leaving them swollen, painful and stiff. RA tends to affect the smaller joints such as the fingers and toes first, so feet are often one of the first places to be affected. Symptoms usually strike the toes first and may then affect the back of the feet and the ankles. The joints may enlarge and even freeze in one position so they can’t extend fully.
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