Ankle arthritis tends to affect a younger population because it often develops after an ankle injury like a fracture. Conditions like flat-footedness and repetitive ankle sprains can also lead to degeneration of the ankle joints over time.
At OrthoMed Center, our orthopedic foot and ankle surgeons offer a number of treatment and surgery options for ankle arthritis.
Symptoms of ankle arthritis are often gradual, developing over time. Symptoms can include:
- Pain with motion
- Pain after a period of rest or physical activity
- Tenderness, swelling, and stiffness of the ankle joint
These symptoms can make it difficult to walk and may eventually lead to significant disability. Proper treatment can help manage these symptoms.
The risk factors associated with ankle arthritis include age, obesity, and family history of the disease.
During your exam, your orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon will ask you questions about your medical history and any medications you may be taking. He will then examine your ankle for tenderness and swelling, and ask you questions about your pain, such as:
- Where is the pain located?
- When did the pain start?
- Is the pain continuous or intermittent?
- Does the pain feel worse at any particular time of the day?
- Does the pain get worse with activity, such as walking or running?
You will also be asked to describe your injury, including when it occurred and if you had received any prior treatment.
Since pain and stiffness of joints caused by arthritis can change how you walk, your orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon will want to do a gait analysis to observe how you walk (your gait) and assess how the bones in your leg and foot line up when you walk. Your doctor will also measure your stride and test the strength of your ankles and feet.
During your exam, your doctor will examine your shoes for any signs of abnormal or uneven wear. Your shoes should provide sufficient support for your foot and ankle.
Shoes are worn to protect your feet and prevent injury. Poorly fitted shoes can cause discomfort, injury, and permanent deformity. Understanding the components of a shoe and the proper fit can help you make sensible shoe purchases. Durable construction and a good fit are the most important qualities to look for in shoes.
Imaging tests help your orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon determine the severity of your arthritis.
X-rays provide detailed images of your bones and any narrowing of the joint space between bones (an indication of cartilage loss), fractures, and the formation of bone spurs.
Other imaging tests, such as a bone scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT), may be used to determine the condition of the bone and soft tissues.
There is no cure for ankle arthritis, but the right treatments can alleviate your symptoms. At OrthoMed Center, our orthopedic foot and ankle surgeons offer nonsurgical and surgical treatment options to help you remain active and reduce or eliminate arthritis pain.
Nonsurgical treatment typically includes anti-inflammatory medications, activity modification, corticosteroid injections, topical anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, and bracing.
If nonsurgical treatment fails to address the pain caused by ankle arthritis, surgical treatment options may be considered.
Traditionally, surgical treatment for ankle arthritis has involved ankle arthrodesis, also known as ankle fusion. In this procedure, the damaged bone and cartilage in the ankle are removed, and the joint is held together with fixation devices like plates and screws so that the bones fuse together. However, this procedure eliminates the range of motion in the ankle, which can stress other joints to compensate for the lack of motion in the ankle.
At OrthoMed, we always keep abreast of the latest developments in ankle arthritis surgery. As implant technology has improved, ankle replacement surgery has become more popular in recent years. The newest techniques and technology in ankle replacement surgery allow for an improved range of motion while also relieving pain.
Ankle replacements are not usually recommended for patients under the age of 50 because the implants will need to be replaced in 10-15 years. However, an ankle replacement allows patients to retain ankle motion, which decreases the additional stress experienced by the adjacent joints. Our orthopedic foot and ankle surgeons can help you determine if ankle replacement surgery is the right option for your lifestyle and level of activity.
Full recovery from ankle replacement surgery usually takes 4 to 6 months. Patients can expect to return to daily activities within 3 to 4 months.
After surgery, you can expect to have a cast on your foot to limit movement in your foot and ankle. You will need to elevate your foot above the level of your heart for 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. Pain medication will be prescribed for a short time while you are home.
Additionally, your orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon may recommend physical therapy to help you regain strength in your foot and ankle and to restore range of motion.
OrthoMed Center’s board-certified orthopedic foot and ankle surgeons offer a full range of nonsurgical and surgical treatment options for ankle arthritis. Our experts are happy to help with all your treatment needs. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call OrthoMed at (209) 524-4438
to schedule a consultation with one of our orthopedic surgeons. You may also request an appointment