In honor of Arthritis Awareness Month, we’re taking a closer look at some of the types of arthritis affecting the foot and ankle. While arthritis is a general term used to describe a large group of more than 100 different kinds of joint diseases, this blog will focus on one specific type: osteoarthritis of the ankle. Along with big toe joint arthritis, ankle arthritis is another common form of arthritis treated by New York orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon, Stuart Katchis, M.D.
The term “arthritis” means joint inflammation. When inflammation affects the ankle joints it can produce a variety of symptoms. If ankle arthritis is not properly treated, it may eventually result in debilitating pain and even a loss of joint function. The most common form of arthritis that affects the ankle is osteoarthritis; however, similar symptoms may also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a condition that results from the breakdown and gradual loss of cartilage in the joints. Cartilage, which is the connective tissue located at the ends of bones in the joints, is responsible for cushioning and protecting the bones during movement. When the cartilage is lost or deteriorates, symptoms will develop that may interfere with your ability to perform normal activities. When cartilage is lost in the ankle, it can cause pain and problems with walking.
Causes of Ankle Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis of the ankle is due to wear and tear of the cartilage in the ankle joint, which deteriorates with repeated use and stress over time. As the cartilage in your ankle gets thinner, the bones lose their protective covering and will eventually rub together, which causes inflammation and pain. Along with gradual wear and tear, ankle arthritis may also result from an injury, such as a fracture or severe ankle sprain that damages the joint’s cartilage. People with abnormal foot mechanics, such as high arches or flat feet, which place increased strain on the foot and ankle joints, are at higher risk for developing this condition.
Symptoms of Ankle Arthritis
The symptoms of ankle arthritis vary in degree depending on the severity of the degeneration. Some people with osteoarthritis may develop a bone spur, which will cause additional pain. In some situations, symptoms of ankle arthritis may also include calluses or blisters that form over the surface of the bone spur. Bone spurs in the ankle can significantly limit the movement of the ankle joint.
Other symptoms of ankle arthritis may include:
- Reduced range of motion
- Difficulty walking
Diagnosing Ankle Arthritis
The first step to determining whether you have this condition and learning about your treatment options is to visit Extend Orthopedics in order to have your ankle thoroughly examined. Dr. Katchis will assess things like swelling of the joint, the degree of your pain with movement and your degree of mobility. An X-ray is sometimes necessary in order to determine the extent of the arthritis and whether there is a bone spur present.
Treatments for Ankle Arthritis
Although there are both nonsurgical and surgical treatments, in the majority of situations, nonsurgical treatments are effective at improving symptoms.
Nonsurgical treatments may include:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Immobilization (resting)
- Orthotic devices
- Cortisone injections
- Physical therapy
Surgical treatment is typically recommended if the osteoarthritis has substantially progressed or if nonsurgical treatments have not produced favorable results. In some situations, surgery may be the only option to help decrease the pain and improve the function of the ankle. Two examples of surgical procedures for ankle arthritis are arthrodesis and ankle replacement. To learn more about our offerings, visit our ankle arthritis page.
If you or a loved one is suffering from symptoms of ankle arthritis, don’t wait for the pain to get worse. Call Extend Orthopedics today at 212-434-4920 or fill out the form on this page to schedule an appointment with Dr. Katchis. The earlier you seek treatment, the more likely you will be able to improve your symptoms without the need for surgery.