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Ankle arthritis commonly results from a history of trauma to the ankle, often a severe ankle fracture or a series of recurrent injuries to the ankle. However, it may also develop due to abnormal foot posture (eg. flat foot deformity), or secondary to inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.

Ankle arthritis occurs when there has been damage to the joint cartilage that normally covers and protects the bones of the ankle joint.

What are the signs or symptoms of ankle arthritis?

Ankle pain, swelling and stiffness are the most common symptoms of ankle arthritis. Stiffness in the ankle is often noticed on the first few steps out of bed in the mornings. The pain is often aggravated by increasing activity, wearing unsupportive footwear and when walking on uneven terrain.

How is ankle arthritis diagnosed?

Ankle arthritis can be seen on plain ankle xrays with loss of normal joint space, development of bony spurs around the joint and other signs of joint degeneration. Sometimes a CT scan or MRI may be necessary to assess ankle arthritis.

How is ankle arthritis treated?

The goals of podiatric treatment are to minimise pain and discomfort, and improve function. Treatment options depend on the patient’s symptoms and severity of the ankle arthritis.

Podiatric treatment for ankle arthritis may incorporate a combination of the following:

  • supportive stable footwear, sometimes medical grade footwear is required
  • foot orthoses – to improve foot posture and help dissipate some of the force that would normally go through the ankle with each step
  • weight loss
  • advice on pain medicines – modified release paracetamol may be helpful
  • home exercise programs – exercises designed to keep the joints moving and the muscles that control the ankle strong
  • activity modification
  • custom ankle foot braces – such as the Richie Brace.

In some patients with severe ankle arthritis, surgery may be the best treatment option.

If you have symptoms of ankle pain, stiffness or swelling you may benefit from professional care from our experienced podiatrists.

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