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Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition in which you experiences pain within a joint. With more than 30 joints in the foot, it is common for the feet and ankle to be affected by arthritis. The pain and inflammation commonly associated with arthritis may affect balance and movement. There is no cure for arthritis, but there are treatment options to help manage symptoms. It is important to begin treatment as soon as possible to reduce pain, and prevent the condition from becoming more severe.

There are three types of arthritis that may affect your ankle:

  • Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that typically affects individuals later in life. The surface of bones becomes worn over time causing inflammation and pain in the joint. As the condition progresses, your joint becomes stiff, limiting range of motion. 
  • Post-Traumatic Arthritis is similar to osteoarthritis, but develops after an injury and can affect individuals at any age. In most cases, you won't experience symptoms until several years after the injury. 
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis is a disease in which your own immune system destroys cartilage surrounding the joints. As the cartilage deteriorates, the bones begin to rub together causing the surrounding tissues to become inflamed. This can become increasingly painful over time.

Causes of arthritis

Each type of arthritis has a different cause: 

  • Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear on your bones and occurs with age. As the surface of the bones in your ankle and feet become worn, the joints become painful and inflamed.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis can occur if your bones and cartilage don't heal properly after a severe sprain or fracture. When the bones and cartilage are not properly aligned, pain and inflammation of the surrounding tissues can result. However, it takes time for the bones to wear down, so symptoms of arthritis do not typically present themselves until years after the injury. 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is thought to be caused by an infection or environmental factor which triggers the disease and causes substances to attack the joint. While the disease is not inherited, genetics may play a role in making you more susceptible to the disease.

Arthritis symptoms

Symptoms of arthritis include: 

  • Joint inflammation. 
  • Loss of balance and lack of movement as a result of pain or swelling. 
  • Pain surrounding the joint. 
  • Stiffness of the joint.

Treatment of arthritis

Arthritis can typically be controlled through non-surgical treatments, but surgery may also be considered.

Non-surgical treatments include: 

  • Anti-inflammatory medications. 
  • Brace or cane for support.
  • Exercise or physical therapy.
  • Pain medications. 
  • Physician-administered injections of steroid medication. 
  • Shoe inserts or arch supports.

If symptoms persist, surgery may be an option. Surgery may involve removing excess tissue around the joint (arthroscopic debridement), fusing the joint together (arthrodesis), or replacing the affected joint (arthroplasty). 

  • Arthrodesis is a procedure that involves fusing the bones of the joint together using pins, plates, screws, or rods. In some cases, a brace may need to be worn following surgery in order to help with healing. This procedure is typically successful, but over time arthritis may develop in the surrounding joints. 
  • Arthroplasty involves replacing the joint with a prosthetic. This procedure provides relief from pain and inflammation. It also allows for better movement of the affected joint, which puts less strain on surrounding joints and minimizes the chance for arthritis to develop elsewhere. 
  • Arthroscopic Debridement is a minimally invasive procedure, which allows for quicker recovery time than traditional surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon looks for any abnormalities and removes inflamed tissue and loose cartilage from around the joint.

To determine which treatment will be most beneficial for your particular condition, consult your physician.