Arthritis most commonly affects your knees, hips, spine, and hands, but it can develop in any joint, including your ankles, which consist of three bones: tibia, fibula, and talus. Arthritis of the ankle can affect any or all of these bones.
While it isn’t life-threatening, ankle arthritis can have a significant impact on your daily life, from limiting your ability to engage in activities that you enjoy, to reducing your overall mobility. If you're diagnosed with ankle arthritis, or if you think you may have it, a foot and ankle specialist is your best resource for effective management.
Board-certified podiatrist David E. Biss and his team at Concord Podiatry offer a full range of treatments for conditions that affect the foot and ankle, including ankle arthritis. Here's what patients should know about the warning signs of arthritis of the ankle.
While ankle arthritis can have a variety of causes, such as autoimmune disease (inflammatory arthritis), it's often the result of degeneration of the cartilage due to a previous injury. An injury can cause the cartilage to break down faster than normal.
Overall, arthritis less commonly develops in the ankle compared with areas such as the knee and hip. However, because arthritis can affect any joint, it’s important to pay attention to any symptoms.
Your symptoms can provide a clue to your ankle problems. Keep in mind that having certain symptoms doesn't mean you have ankle arthritis. It's important to see a foot and ankle specialist for a thorough evaluation and formal diagnosis. The following are the most common signs of ankle arthritis.
Pain is a common symptom of ankle arthritis. Because the ankle has three bones, you may have pain in any of the three bones or all of them. The pain may feel like a sharp intense sensation or a dull ache. Pain may also occur in the lower part of your shin or the middle or back of your foot, and it may intensify with physical activity.
Anything that places added strain on your ankle joint, such as jumping, jogging, and running can exacerbate ankle pain. The pain caused by ankle arthritis typically lessens with rest.
Cartilage is designed to provide cushion between bones. When cartilage in the ankle joint wears away, the bones of the ankle rub against one another. Not only does that cause pain, but it also decreases range of motion, causing your ankle joint to feel stiff. This can make it more challenging to point, flex, or move your foot from side to side.
Swelling is a common feature in arthritis, including ankle arthritis. When the cartilage of the ankle breaks down, the bones that make up the ankle joint rub together, causing irritation and inflammation. The ankle may produce extra fluid to remedy the situation and reduce friction. The extra fluid around the joint contributes to swelling.
Ankle arthritis is a progressive condition that tends to worsen over time. As the condition progresses, it may cause changes to your ankle that result in deformity. It may look much larger on one side, or it may have an abnormal lump.
When arthritis develops, it's common for your ankle to become unstable. Arthritis compromises the ability of the ankle, a weight-bearing joint, to stabilize and support your weight.
The affected ankle may lock and stiffen when you walk or buckle, making you vulnerable to falls. It's important to wear supportive shoes to reduce the risk of falling. Your provider can provide a recommendation for appropriate footwear.
When cartilage deteriorates, it often does so unevenly, which causes the bones to shift in an effort to compensate, affecting the way you walk. Your provider can check your gait for changes. Because your gait also affects your knee and hip joints, an uneven gait can lead to knee and hip problems.
Experience in treating ankle arthritis is paramount. At Concord Podiatry, your provider can perform a comprehensive evaluation, provide a formal diagnosis, and create an individualized treatment plan to address your ankle arthritis.
The goal of our effective treatment approaches to managing ankle arthritis is to reduce pain and improve joint function. The best place to start is with a comprehensive evaluation. Call one of our clinics — in Concord or Plymouth, New Hampshire — to schedule an appointment today.