What Is Ankle Arthritis and How Is It Treated?
Ankle arthritis is a form of arthritis—a painful, chronic condition that affects millions of people every year. This article will help you understand how ankle arthritis develops and what you can do to treat it.
Causes of Ankle Arthritis
Ankle arthritis most commonly develops as a form of osteoarthritis, which means your ankle joints have worn down from regular wear-and-tear. Over time, your ankle begins to lose the soft cartilage that normally cushions and protects the joint.
The breakdown of cartilage can lead to pain, swelling, and stiffness in the ankle when bone begins to repeatedly rub against bone. Friction between bones can also produce osteophytes—otherwise known as bone spurs. Sometimes the bone can even start to pinch neighboring soft tissue, leading to a condition called ankle impingement.
There are other causes of ankle arthritis, though. It can also develop as a result of rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, which are both autoimmune conditions where your immune system targets healthy cartilage, damaging the joint. Posttraumatic arthritis is another cause of ankle arthritis. This means that after an injury or a dislocation, you may experience similar pain and joint damage.
Symptoms of Ankle Arthritis
There are a variety of key symptoms associated with ankle arthritis. Here are some of the top signs to look out for that might indicate you’re suffering from it:
- Ankle swelling
- Pain around the ankle
- Ankle stiffness
- Difficulty walking or moving around—especially after sitting or resting a while
- Sensitivity to touch around the ankle
- Warmth around the ankle
If you have several of these symptoms, it might be time to get a professional diagnosis.
Diagnosing Ankle Arthritis
To diagnose ankle arthritis, there are several tests that you can expect to be performed.
- Evaluation of your medical history
- A physical exam of your ankle and foot
- An X-ray of your ankle and foot joints
- Occasionally, an MRI or CT scan
Treatments for Ankle Arthritis
There are plenty of treatment options available for those who suffer from ankle arthritis depending on its severity and location.
Here are some common non-surgical ankle arthritis treatment options:
- Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers
- Steroid injections
- Physical therapy exercises
- Better fitting shoes
- Shoe inserts or arches
- Lifestyle modifications (weight loss, altered physical activity)
- Supportive ankle braces
Depending on the severity of your ankle arthritis, you may need orthopedic surgery to treat it. Surgery types vary based on your needs, but two common types of surgery used to treat ankle arthritis are
- Ankle fusion: The surface of the bones causing the arthritis are replaced with plates and screws until the bones fuse together. Fusion can lead to reduced ankle mobility but often leads to considerable pain relief with a less invasive procedure.
- Ankle replacement: For advanced arthritis cases, the damaged ankle bone and joint are removed and replaced with a metal or plastic artificial joint which allows for a considerable range of motion.
Getting Medical Help for Ankle Arthritis
Ankle arthritis is a serious condition that can severely limit your physical activity and lower your quality of life. It’s important to get checked out and formally diagnosed so that you can get back to doing what you love most.
The orthopedic specialists and surgeons at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants are skilled specialists with an innovative approach to treatment and recovery. We take your health seriously and want to give you the best opportunity to live pain-free. Based on an exam of your ankle and foot, you will receive treatment recommendations designed to offer you the most relief.
If you’re experiencing ankle arthritis symptoms, it’s time to contact us today to schedule an appointment.