Osteoarthritis of the Ankle

Osteoarthritis, a condition that causes pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints, develops over time as the cartilage protecting the bones in the joints wears down. It is the most common form of arthritis, and can affect any joint, including the ankle joint, which connects the shinbone (tibia) to the upper bone of the foot (talus).

When osteoarthritis develops in the ankle joint, stiffness and pain can result, and balance and walking may be compromised. As people age, they are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, not only because of cartilage wear and tear, but because cartilage loses its ability to self-heal.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis of the Ankle

Osteoarthritis of the ankle may not initially cause symptoms. As the condition progresses, however, symptoms develop and usually worsen over time. Symptoms may include the following:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Bone spurs
  • Joint deformity
  • Difficulty walking

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

Treatment of Osteoarthritis of the Ankle

Although treatment for ankle osteoarthritis depends on its severity, conservative methods of treatment, such as losing weight to relieve pressure on the affected ankle, are usually tried first. Additional conservative methods that may provide relief include the following:

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

Anti-inflammatory medication and steroid injections can also be helpful in relieving pain. In severe cases of osteoarthritis, advanced but invasive treatments such as ankle arthroscopy, ankle-fusion surgery or ankle-replacement surgery may be recommended.

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