What Is Ankle Arthritis?


Ankle Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

Aging doesn't have to be difficult. But when we start to encounter some of the wear and tear that comes with lifetime of activity, we can face a difficult condition called ankle arthritis.

It's a known fact that the impact we put on our bodies starts to "catch up with us" as we age. And wear and tear is the primary cause of osteoarthritis. It's a condition that can have a profound impact on your mobility. Especially when it affects the crucial joints and tissues around the feet and ankles.

So what happens when we have ankle osteoarthritis?

  • Pain

  • Swelling

  • Possible deformity

Let's explore this condition and give you some tips to help manage your osteoarthritis. It can really slow you down, but with the right information, we can stay on top of it and help you live a pain-free life.

What's Arthritis?

Let's take a minute to define arthritis. If you've read this blog in the past, you know exactly what I'm talking about. But let's refresh for you newbies.

When we refer to arthritis we are referring to inflammation and swelling which causes stiffness and/or pain. Arthritis means "joint inflammation."

This inflammation impacts the joints and tissue around the ankle. The level of stiffness and pain will vary with the severity of the arthritic condition.

Pain is one thing. Having your quality of life compromised is a whole different ballgame. To put it simply, it stinks.

What's the difference between ankle arthritis and ankle osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the "wear-and-tear" variety that I alluded to. You won't be surprised to learn that it's the most common type of arthritis. The breakdown of cartilage that causes this type of arthritis can slowly build over years of use. It can go from a slight nuisance to a full-blown problem.

Osteoarthritis of the Foot and Ankle

How do you know if your feet and ankles are being affected by osteoarthritis? Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Joint Stiffness
  • Joint swelling
  • Reduced mobility
  • Pain

Posttraumatic ankle arthritis

Just to differentiate here, there is another way that arthritis of the foot and ankle can develop. That's after a fracture or a dislocation to the ankle.

Posttraumatic arthritis can develop after an injury to the foot or ankle. Dislocations and fractures (particularly those that damage the joint surface) are the most common injuries that lead to posttraumatic arthritis. Like osteoarthritis, posttraumatic arthritis causes the cartilage between the joints to wear away.

What can we do about arthritis of the Ankle?

There are quite a few non-surgical ways to combat osteoarthritis of the foot and ankle. Here's a list of some of our options.

  • Steroid Medications - Injected into the joints to help ease the pain.
  • Anti-Inflammatory drugs - used to reduce swelling in the joints
  • Pain relievers - self-explanatory
  • Arch Supports, orthotics, or custom made shoes
  • Support apparatus such as canes or braces
  • Physical therapy

Surgery for Ankle Arthritis


Luckily, most people who suffer from ankle arthritis es won't have to have surgery. But there are some cases when it's necessary. Here are some of the different methods of surgery your foot and ankle specialist may perform.

Ankle debridement

In this case, we use either arthroscopic or open surgery to address your ankle arthritis. Here's what happens in ankle debridement:

  • remove inflamed tissue

  • smooth out rough cartilage

  • trim away bone spurs

  • remove irritants to the bone such as rough tissue or cartilage

Ankle arthrodiastasis

Our goal here is to stretch out the ankle joint to create space between the tibia and the talus. Using metal pins and/or wires, we affix a device to the tibia and talus, which the patient wears for several months. The patient can walk during this time, and during this time the cartilage will get the chance to heal.

Ankle arthrodesis

This is also known as an "ankle fusion." We fuse together the bones of the ankle joint in an attempt to eliminate the friction which is causing pain. This should bring stability back to the ankle. This is a common type of surgery to treat ankle arthritis, despite the fact that it may decrease ankle flexibility dramatically.

Have specific questions about your ankle arthritis ? Make sure to visit a foot and ankle specialist in your area to get some guidance.

Good luck!