More than one in six adults over the age of 50 in the United Kingdom are affected by painful foot osteoarthritis, a number that is higher than previously believed. The new research from Keele University shows that the disease, which affects 3.5 million UK adults, has a significant impact on daily tasks.

The research was led by Keele University's Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre and included 5,000 participants. More than one million visits every year are made to doctors because of osteoarthritis, a disease with symptoms of inflammation of the joints, damage to cartilage, and swelling of the bone. Difficulty moving, pain, and stiffness are effects of these symptoms.

The research team found that painful foot arthritis affects more women than men, and is more common in those who have spent their careers performing manual work. Previous studies focused on x-ray findings, and this was the first to investigate how foot arthritis affects the daily lives of sufferers. Three-quarters of people with the condition reported having trouble with everyday activities like walking, standing, housework, and shopping.

This new study included new methods of detecting osteoarthritis in the midfoot, which had previously been difficult to diagnose.

Dr. Edward Roddy, clinical senior lecturer in rheumatology at Keele University, said, "Foot osteoarthritis is a more common and disabling problem than we previously thought, making everyday tasks difficult and painful for people affected.

"While it's been known for decades that joints in the foot can be affected by osteoarthritis, much of the previous research has focused on the hip and knee areas, and research on the foot has concentrated almost entirely on the bunion joint at the base of the big toe. However, by looking at the whole foot and the impact on people's lives, it's clear the problem is more widespread than we anticipated.

"This is an area that needs much more research to understand the reasons why people develop osteoarthritis in their feet, and what we can do to help improve pain and suffering from this common condition. Doctors and other healthcare professionals should also be aware of osteoarthritis as a common cause of foot pain in this age group."

Professor Anthony Redman, spokesman for Arthritis Research UK and Professor of Clinical Biomechanics at the University of Leeds said, "We know that foot problems become much more common as we get older but the medical and healthcare community have been guilty in the past of dismissing this as just an inevitable part of aging.

"We have long known about some forms of osteoarthritis in the feet such as bunions, which are a common type of osteoarthritic damage affecting the big toe joints and are taken much more seriously, with both on-surgical and surgical treatments widely employed. The study tells us that if we want to keep our over 50's active and healthy we should be similarly serious about arch or midfoot pain. While osteoarthritis does not yet have a miracle cure, the associated pain and disability are not inevitable and people with foot pain should be given genuine treatment options- something can always be done."

Reference: Medical Xpress

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