What is Ankle Arthritis?

Ankle arthritis occurs between the end of the shin bone (tibia) and the ankle bone (talus). Arthritis of the ankle is much less common than hip or knee arthritis. Unlike hip and knee arthritis, it most commonly occurs following an injury which changes the contact forces and load bearing mechanics of the joint. Loss of cartilage then ensues.

What are the Symptoms?

Arthritis is associated with pain and stiffness. The symptoms typically come on gradually over months or years. In the ankle, pain can occur initially at the front but eventually is felt globally. Pain is worse with activity but as the disease progresses can be present constantly. Night pain is common making sleep difficult. Stiffness can make it difficult to move the ankle up and down. These symptoms may affect your ability to walk, negotiate stairs and do your normal daily activities. 

What is the Treatment?

In the early stages non-surgical treatment may be effective. Changing your activities, wearing an ankle brace or boot, and pain medication such as paracetamol or anti-inflammatories may be sufficient. A rocker sole shoe will compensate for lack of ankle movement. 

Failing the above a number of surgical options are available depending on the degree and pattern of arthritis. Ankle arthroscopy to resect spurs can be beneficial in the early stages. In more advanced cases the options include osteotomy to realign the joint, ankle fusion, or arthroplasty (joint replacement). Each has their own pro’s and con’s and may not be suitable for all patients.