Arthritis is a broad term that groups together more than a hundred different diseases. It is characterized by joint inflammation which can lead to pain, swelling, and a reduction in joint function. One specific area where arthritis can occur is the ankle joint, and it is becoming increasingly more common. With ankle arthritis, patients might suffer from stiffness, pain, and difficulty walking or performing daily activities.
The most prevalent type of ankle arthritis is osteoarthritis. It is often called degenerative arthritis since it occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of our bones wears down over time. As the cartilage thins, bones rub against each other, which can lead to bone spurs, inflammation, and deformity. Osteoarthritis of the ankle is usually the result of a prior ankle injury or trauma, such as an ankle fracture or sprain.
Aside from osteoarthritis, another type of arthritis that can affect the ankle is rheumatoid arthritis. It is an autoimmune disorder that involves inflammation and damage to the synovium, which is the connective tissue lining the joint. This can subsequently cause joint erosion and deformities in the ankle.
Ankle arthritis can occur at any age. It can affect the foot and ankle differently depending on the cause, and every patient has his or her specific symptoms. Some of the most typical symptoms of ankle arthritis include stiffness, swelling, and pain. Some patients might feel a grinding sensation when moving the ankle or hear a “crunching” sound. As the disease progresses, symptoms may worsen, and joint spurs or other deformities might occur.
Several treatment options exist for ankle arthritis. In mild to moderate cases, over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy or exercises may be helpful. Medical professionals may also recommend the use of ankle braces, custom orthotics or changes in lifestyle, such as weight loss or the incorporation of low-impact exercises.
When the pain becomes chronic and disability develops, it may be time to evaluate surgical solutions. These can range from ankle arthroscopy, where the doctor uses a tiny camera to repair any cartilage defects, to total ankle replacement. The procedure can entirely replace the joint with an artificial one, providing relief from pain and stiffness.
When you experience symptoms of ankle arthritis, it is essential to seek professional medical advice. We can help diagnose and manage your condition, whether through non-surgical or surgical means. Dr Gilbert Huang DPM is a certified doctor who can offer you the care you need. Contact us today to find out how we can help improve your quality of life.