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Podiatrist for possible RA?

  • By Donna Dube

    Hello, I’m new here and have NOT yet had a diagnosis of RA but have symptoms and family history. My worst symptom right now is toe joint pain (bunions, angled toes, calluses). My doctor has referred me to a podiatrist. Is this a good place to start? Would he recognize RA symptoms? When is someone usually referred to a rheumatologist?! Thanks.

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  • By Jane Burbach

    Hi Donna,

    I was not referred to a rheumatologist by my family doctor until my fingers and wrists showed symptoms and she ordered blood tests. However, the rheumatologist said my forefeet showed the worst damage from RA on the outside, as well as erosions in the xrays. And in retrospect foot problems were my first symptoms.

    I imagine a podiatrist would recognize symptoms and refer you to a rheumatologist but you might need blood tests first. I don’t know if a podiatrist would order those or refer you back to family doctor / GP for the labs. Anyway, I wish you the best in finding answers to your health problems. Being diagnosed was the largest hurdle for me and it took years.

    Jane

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  • By Andrew Lumpe, PhD Moderator

    Hi Donna, there are specific diagnostic criteria that doctors use to diagnose RA. You can read about them at this link – https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/diagnosis/. Toe pain alone is likely not enough for a diagnosis. If you suspect RA, you can ask your general practitioner about it and share the diagnostic criteria with him/her. Usually a GP will refer but any doctor can also refer. Jane also has some good advice. Hope you get a clear picture of what’s going on.

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  • By Donna Dube

    Thank you both for your replies. The diagnostic criteria is VERY helpful!!

    I do have stiffness in my hands/fingers in the morning which gets better shortly after moving. And have regular back/hip/knee pain (I don’t know if that’s related).

    My first “sign”, I guess, would have been Raynaud’s syndrome which my PCP confirmed is a possible pre-cursor to RA.

    My father’s mother had horrible RA, but so far no one else in my family has any signs.

    Thanks again 🙂

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  • By Andrew Lumpe, PhD Moderator

    Unfortunately, autoimmune diseases are notorious for being difficult to initially diagnose. Symptoms may creep in here and there over many years only to fully reveal itself years later. I hope you get a clear picture of what’s going on.

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  • By Trudi Martinco

    Hi Donna. My RA is effecting my feet too. But I agree with the above advice, you need to get into a Rheumatologist. In fact, my guess is, when you see the Podiatrist, he/she will probably refer you or suggest you see one as well. The Podiatrist will be able to tell if there is a lot of swelling in your feet and also if you have nodules which will be a good indication of RA, but a Rheumatologist will send you in for blood work, x-rays, and do a clinical exam to determine if you have RA. And only a Rheumatologist can prescribe the meds that are necessary to help slow down or even stop the joint destruction.

    Your problem with your feet sounds so much like mine. It is so painful to walk on the balls of my feet. After years of suffering and three cortisone shots, I finally had an MRI on my foot and it showed a large neuroma and all sorts of RA activity. All this is to say, that you may have Morton’s neuroma along with RA(which is not a big deal and very common, (even in people who don’t have RA) and your Rheumatologist will send you to see a Podiatrist if he suspects you have a neuroma. Short answer…I think you’ll need to see both doctors. And that is one of the many things with RA… we can see and be treated by a lot of doctors of different specialties. Good luck! If it does turn out you have RA, I can say for myself the treatment has been life saying. It’s a crappy thing to have, but there is a lot of hope for us.

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  • By Mariah Z. Leach Moderator

    Hi Donna ~

    My RA started in my toes and I was sent to a podiatrist who tried a bunch of stuff but none of it helped. No one mentioned that it could be arthritis – I was just left without an explanation! So I would second the advice already given here – if you think there is something going on in your body other than just in your feet you may want to get in to talk to a rheumatologist. Because early detection and treatment of RA can prevent long term joint destruction. And you are the one who knows your body better than anyone else!

    ~Mariah~

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  • By Donna Dube

    Thanks Mariah for your post.

    I did see a podiatrist who suggested I bring my concerns of RA to my PCP. So that will be the next step.

    It’s still early on for me, so I hope I can prevent more damage.

    Donna

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