Ankle Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition that causes pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and like any other joint in the body, the ankle may be affected by this condition. The ankle is the joint that connects the shinbone, or the tibia to the talus, or the upper bone of the foot. Ankle arthritis develops as the cartilage protecting the bones of the joints wears down over time. Over the years, as stress is put on the joints of the ankles, the cartilage wears thin and sometimes even erodes completely. If arthritis develops in the joints of the ankle, stiffness and pain may develop and balance and walking may be affected. Ankle arthritis occurs more frequently in older individuals, however it sometimes develops in athletes from overuse of a joint or after an injury.

Symptoms of Ankle Arthritis

Arthritis of the ankle is believed to be a genetic condition that tends to run in families. An injury to the ankle, such as a fracture or repeated sprains, can also often lead to arthritis, even years after the initial injury. Individuals with arthritis of the ankle may not initially experience any symptoms as the cartilage holding the joint together becomes damaged. As the condition progresses however, symptoms may develop and worsen over time. Symptoms of ankle arthritis may include:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Bone spurs
  • Deformity of the joint
  • Difficulty walking

If the nerves surrounding the joint become irritated, patients may also experience numbness and tingling in the ankle.

Treatment of Ankle Arthritis

Treatment for arthritis of the ankle depends on the severity of the condition, but often begins with more conservative methods such as losing weight to relieve pressure on the affected ankle. Some patients may experience relief from their symptoms by:

  • Wearing more comfortable shoes
  • Using cushioned shoe inserts
  • Limiting high-impact activities
  • Wearing a brace or using a cane for support

Anti-inflammatory medication and cortisone injections may also be helpful in relieving pain. In severe cases, more advanced treatments such as ankle arthroscopy, ankle fusion surgery or ankle replacement surgery may be recommended.

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