Although it's true that arthritis is more common in adults over age 50, younger people can also struggle with arthritis in their ankles. Regardless of your age, however, effective treatment options for this type of joint pain are available. Visit an Omaha podiatrist today to learn how to relieve your pain so you can continue living life to the fullest.
Diagnosing Arthritis in the Ankles
Arthritis is characterized by inflammation in the joints and surrounding tissue. There are more than 100 different forms of arthritis, but the most common type of arthritis is known as osteoarthritis or "wear-and-tear" arthritis. It can affect any of the 33 joints in the foot or the two joints in the ankle.
Some factors that increase a person's risk of developing osteoarthritis include:
- Age. Your risk of developing osteoarthritis increases as you get older.
- Genetics. If osteoarthritis runs in your family, you are more likely to develop the condition.
- Sex. Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men.
- Weight. People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of osteoarthritis because of added stress placed on their joints.
- Past joint injuries. Injuries to the joints from playing sports or being in a car accident can increase your risk of osteoarthritis as you age.
- Repeated stress on the joints. Whether part of your employment or a hobby you enjoy in your free time, any activity that places repeated stress on your ankle joints increases your risk of osteoarthritis.
If you have osteoarthritis in your ankles, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain when moving the affected joint
- Decreased weight-bearing ability
- Increased pain and swelling after sleeping or prolonged periods of sitting
- Joint stiffness or swelling that is accompanied by warmth and redness
- Tenderness when you touch the joint
Arthritis can be diagnosed with a physical exam and a gait analysis. Since pain in your ankles can affect the way you walk, observing your gait can tell your podiatrist about the severity and location of your arthritis. Your podiatrist may recommend an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan to evaluate the extent of the damage.
Treatment for Arthritis in the Ankles
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis. However, a podiatrist can help you create a plan to slow the progression of the disease and relieve your symptoms, so you're able to continue living an active lifestyle.
The treatment for arthritis depends on your specific symptoms. Your podiatrist may recommend:
- Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications
- Steroid medication that can be injected into the ankle joint
- Orthotics to support the foot and ankle
- Custom-fitted shoes
- Using canes or braces for support
- Physical therapy
- Lifestyle modifications such as switching from high-impact workouts like running or tennis to low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling
When these conservative treatments haven't provided the desired pain relief, your podiatrist may suggest surgery. There are two types of surgery that can be used to treat ankle arthritis:
- Fusion surgery. Also called arthrodesis, this procedure involves fusing bones together with rods, pins, screws, or plates.
- Joint replacement surgery. Also called arthroplasty, this involves replacing damaged bone and cartilage with metal or plastic. This type of procedure is reserved for the most severe cases of arthritis in the ankle.
If surgical treatment is needed, it can take between four and nine months to make a full recovery depending on the type of procedure and the severity of your condition. However, you should be able to resume most daily activities within three months while wearing a supportive shoe or brace.
Our Omaha Podiatrists Can Help Relieve Ankle Arthritis Pain
If arthritis in your ankles is causing you pain and making it difficult to complete the activities you enjoy, our Omaha podiatrists can help you develop a treatment plan that best fits your needs. Complete our contact form or call our office at 402-333-8856 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Michael Cullen or Dr. Nathan Penney.