The inflammation of a joint, arthritis is a common condition that affects many different areas of articulation (joints) in the body. Due to the thin properties of the cartilage, arthritis in the ankle joint is a lot less commonplace than in other joints.
Arthritis can cause pain and stiffness, and as the cartilage in the ankle wears out – because of wear and tear or inflammation – bone rubs on bone causing the feeling of pain.
- Tenderness or pain when walking or undertaking physical activities
- Swelling in the joint
- Stiffness – where the arthritis has been caused by degenerative wear and tear, the stiffness may become worse after exercising. For inflammatory arthritis, it will be more of a problem in the morning or after prolonged periods of inactivity
- Because of physical damage to the bone or ligaments, deformities within the ankle may occur
Ankle arthritis is more common in older people, although it can affect people of all ages.
Osteoarthritis – Most ankle arthritis is caused by wear and tear, which is known as osteoarthritis. A degenerative disease, inflammation and injury cause the cartilage tissues to break down, which in turn results in pain and swelling.
Rheumatoid arthritis – A disease where the immune system attacks cells lining joints, making them stiff and inflamed. While it’s unclear what causes rheumatoid arthritis, women, smokers and those with a family history of the condition are considered more at risk.
Posttraumatic arthritis – A previous trauma such as a fracture or sprain of the ankle may cause damage to the joint, making the bone stiffer and thicker, reducing its ability to absorb shock. The body may also stop producing the substances that maintain the joint, which over time means the cartilage thins without repairing itself, leading to posttraumatic arthritis. Injured joints can be seven times more likely to become arthritic.
A disorder that affects the blood, such as haemophilia, or a previous infection can also lead to ankle arthritis.
Lifestyle changes such as reducing activities that cause pain, switching to low-impact activities such as swimming, and losing weight can help relieve pain and slow the disease’s progression.
Anti-inflammatory painkillers can help relieve pain and reduce swelling, with a Hyaluronic acid (Ostenil, Durolane)/Cortisone injection also providing varying degrees of pain relief.
Devices such as orthotics, inserts or braces can help to minimise pressure on the foot, therefore reducing pain, while physical therapy such as physiotherapy or hydrotherapy can help to strengthen muscles in your foot and ankle, decreasing pain, stiffness and swelling.
Surgery may be recommended when the pain causes disability and is not relieved by non-surgical methods. There are many procedures that can help to relieve the pain of arthritis.
Arthroscopic debridement or Cheilectomy is a keyhole procedure, where loose cartilage, inflamed tissue and bone spurs are cleaned from around the joint. This procedure is used in cases where the pain is caused by the pinching of soft tissue or bone spurs.
Arthroplasty or joint replacement is recommended for patients with advanced arthritis, that has destroyed the joint surfaces, and produces pain that interferes with day-to-day activities. With this procedure, cartilage and bone is removed and replaced with metal and plastic layers to replace the joint. As with other joint replacement procedures, the implant may loosen over the years, at which point a further replacement may be undertaken or a fusion procedure.
Arthrodesis or fusion is used to reduce pain by eliminating motion in the joint by fusing two or more bones together. The cartilage is removed, and the bones fixed together with pins, plates, screws and rods. In most cases the bones will knit together satisfactorily, allowing for an active lifestyle to be maintained.
For patients requiring these surgical procedures, referrals will be made to my Orthopaedic colleagues who specialise in ankle and rearfoot surgery.
Find out more about how we can help treat Ankle Arthritis
To find out more about how we can help treat Ankle Arthritis or for more information about Total Foot Surgery, contact us on 07449419401 or use our online contact form.