“Arthritis” is a word that means “inflammation of the joints.” Inflammation (swelling) in and around the joints is a sign of arthritis. When there is inflammation, it can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling. Arthritis is a collective term for more than 100 different diseases, and ankle arthritis is one of them! Ankle arthritis is an inflammation of a joint and the soft tissues around it that can be either short-term or long-term.
People don’t pay as much attention to arthritis in the ankle. Even though arthritis doesn’t affect the ankle as often as it does other joints, it can still make it hard to move and affect your quality of life in a big way. Ankle arthritis can cause a lot of pain and make it hard to do everyday things.
Pain, swelling, instability, and deformity in the ankle joint can be caused by arthritis in the ankle. Ankle arthritis affects the joint between the tibia (shin bone) and the talus (ankle bone). Any or all of these bones can be hurt by arthritis.
Types of Ankle Arthritis
If you are experiencing ankle pain, it is critical to identify the type of arthritis causing it, as some types of arthritis require highly specialized medications and therapies. The following are some of the most common kinds of ankle arthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint condition that causes cushions of cartilage at the ends of joints to wear away gradually. Osteoarthritis is frequently caused by the normal wear and tear on a joint that comes with age. However, many ankle osteoarthritis occurrences result from a previous ankle injury. Injury can directly damage the cartilage or alter the ankle joint’s functions, resulting in cartilage degradation over time.
This type of arthritis would develop in the foot due to an accident, even if it occurred many years ago. For example, ankle sprains, fractures, and dislocations can cause cartilage damage, resulting in early joint deterioration. Symptoms may occur within a few years, whereas joint damage following an injury may take decades.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory illness in which the immune system assaults the body itself. RA can impact the ankle joints. Early indications of RA in the ankle include difficulty with ramps, inclines, and stairs. As the RA in the ankle progresses, standing and basic walking might become painful. Psoriatic arthritis and peripheral spondyloarthritis are more inflammatory arthritis that can affect the ankle joint.
For many people, the initial symptom of gout is pain and swelling in the big toe. Gout is a kind of arthritis that happens when excess uric acid levels in the blood build in and irritate joints. Gout episodes can affect joints other than the big toe, such as the ankles. After years of having gout, uric acid clumps called gout tophi may grow beneath the skin around the ankles.
This persistent form of arthritis develops due to a urinary, vaginal, or gastrointestinal infection. Ankles, knees, and foot joints are frequently the first joints affected by reactive arthritis.
Sign and Symptoms
Sign and symptoms of ankle arthritis are-
- Pain when walking
- Tenderness in the ankle joint
- Stiffness or loss of mobility
- Swelling or warmth on the joint
- Reduce ability to move or walk
Diagnosis of Ankle Arthritis
- A detailed history will be taken, and a physical examination will be performed to examine skin changes, the presence or absence of pulses and nerve sensations, the range of motion in your ankle, and regions of discomfort.
- The doctor will take X-rays to determine the extent of your arthritis and any accompanying ankle problems.
- If surgery is being considered, your doctor may prescribe additional testing, such as a CT scan or an MRI.
Treatment of Ankle Arthritis
There are numerous steps involved in the treatment of ankle arthritis. The first step is to lose weight and change your lifestyle. Excess weight creates a magnified increase in pressure on the tiny ankle joint, so losing weight is beneficial. If specific activities are causing the symptoms, activity adjustment can assist. Over-the-counter analgesic drugs, such as acetaminophen, are administered if these measures are ineffective. Bracing is the following stage, followed by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine. When these methods are no longer effective, surgery may be recommended. Surgical treatment options range from minimally invasive surgery through ankle replacement or ankle arthrodesis. Prior therapies, your current level of disability, the presence of other medical disorders, and the results of your health history, exam, and X-rays will determine your treatment strategy.
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Non-surgical treatments are always considered first by doctors, especially if you have never undergone any other treatments. Treatment options include:
Ankle bracing – Mostly, a custom-made or pre-fabricated ankle brace will stabilize and support your ankle joint.
Cortisone injections – During a flare-up, cortisone injections into the ankle can relieve discomfort and swelling.
Changes in activity – Limiting high-impact exercises, such as sprinting, leaping, or court sports, or substituting low-impact ones, may be an option for you.
Anti-inflammatory medicines with ice – These may be given to you as needed to alleviate symptoms.
Surgery is only considered when all other non-surgical treatments have failed. Doctors perform the following surgeries:
Arthrodesis (Ankle fusion): Depending on your condition, this treatment can be either inpatient or outpatient. Ankle fusion joins the two bones that make up the ankle joint, the tibia and talus, to form a single solid block of bone. Fusion is a suitable method of relieving pain in arthritic joints. It entails removing cartilage from a joint, so it matures into a single bone, alleviating the pain caused by bones rubbing against one other. Although ankle fusion results in a loss of around 75% of ankle motion, some motion is retained through the joints beneath the ankle and into the mid-foot. You can read multiple recovery stories of ankle fusion here.
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Arthroplasty (Total ankle joint replacement): This standard ankle replacement treatment uses the most recent implants (prostheses). The operation is only acceptable for select patients with ankle arthritis, but it can successfully preserve function and give excellent pain relief for the right applicant. Uofmhealth is one of the few healthcare providers that offer total ankle replacement to their customers, and their surgeons have extensive experience with this treatment.
Debridement (Bone spur removal): Arthritis can cause bone spurs to form on the ankle joint, and removing these bone spurs, either through an open ankle incision or using an ankle scope (arthroscopy), may ease discomfort and improve range of motion.
Distraction arthroplasty: Distraction arthroplasty is a revolutionary joint restoration treatment that involves the use of an external frame (applied surgically) placed around the outside of the leg to disperse the surfaces of the ankle joint and induce new cartilage formation. This treatment keeps the ankle moving and relieves pain.
Your arthritis can be diagnosed and treated by a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon. In addition to your orthopedic surgeon, other healthcare professionals may care for you, including a rheumatologist (medical arthritis specialist), physiatrist (rehabilitation specialist), pedorthist (footwear specialist), physical therapist, orthopedist (brace specialist), occupational therapist, nurse, and clinical social worker. You are also an active participant in your treatment. Seek arthritis treatment as soon as possible to help control pain and reduce joint damage. Take your medications as prescribed, exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and engage in all parts of your care to live with your ankle arthritis.