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Ankle Arthritis

What is ankle arthritis?

Ankle arthritis is inflammation of the ankle joint. It causes pain, stiffness and swelling and can affect your ability to walk. There are a number of different types of arthritis that can affect the ankle, but the most common type is osteoarthritis. In osteoarthritis, long-term wear and tear causes the cartilage in the joint to wear away. Cartilage usually separates the bones and allows them to move freely over each other; when it becomes worn down, the bones rub against each other and cause pain.

As well as getting older, the following can increase the chances of developing ankle arthritis:

  • Previous injury to the joint
  • A family history of arthritis
  • Being overweight (as this puts extra stress on your weight-bearing joints)[1]

Ankle arthritis can be diagnosed by a clinical assessment. The doctor will ask you some questions about the pain and undertake a thorough examination of your ankle. They will also have a look at your shoes and how you walk to determine the severity of your arthritis and how much it is affecting you. X-rays may be taken to help confirm the diagnosis and CT or MRI scans of the ankle may be necessary for certain treatments, such as injection[2].

reatment of ankle arthritis depends on the severity of the condition. Usually, the initial treatment is to lose weight, use supportive footwear and take anti-inflammatory medicines to relieve the pain[3]. The anti-inflammatories can also be injected into the ankle joint, and biological treatments may also be considered.

Surgery is an option for more advanced arthritis. Our experienced specialists are able to provide a number of procedures to help treat your ankle arthritis:

  • Keyhole surgery: also known as ‘arthroscopy’, this can be used to assess and treat previous ankle injuries and remove any damaged cartilage
  • Ankle fusion: this is a procedure that joins the two main ankle bones together with screws to prevent the bones moving and causing pain. It is performed when the disease has progressed and the pain and stiffness is severe.

  • Ankle replacement: this is complete replacement of the damaged joint with an artificial metal joint. It may be suitable for some patients after careful consideration by their specialist. Our foot and ankle team are some of the few surgeons that offer this procedure and our physiotherapy team can guide you on appropriate movement and care tailored to you.

Recovery from both ankle fusion and ankle replacement takes up to 12 weeks and involves a plaster cast, boot and crutches initially. Physiotherapy can help you to regain your function more quickly and we will aim to gradually start you walking again after 4 weeks.

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