Osteoarthritis of the Ankle and Foot

Osteoarthritis of the Ankle and Foot Osteoarthritis is characterized by the natural "wear and tear" of the cartilage that covers the ends of your bones. It acts as a cushion and allows our joints to glide smoothly as we move. As we age, this cartilage begins to degrade, resulting in swelling and pain in the joint. There are 28 bones and more than 30 joints in the foot. When any of these areas develops arthritis, it can lead to pain and difficulty walking.

Causes of Osteoarthritis of the Ankle and Foot

Most ankle osteoarthritis occurs due to natural aging, though sometimes it is related to a previous injury to the ankle. Being overweight may also put you at risk for osteoarthritis due to the extra stress on your ankle joints. Genetic factors may also play a role, such as in individuals with flat foot or high arches.

Symptoms of Foot and Ankle Osteoarthritis

The most common symptom of arthritis in the ankle and foot is pain. This pain may be more pronounced during activity, though the patient may begin to feel pain even while resting during later stages of osteoarthritis. Other symptoms may include joint stiffness, swelling, loss of flexibility and range of motion, or difficulty walking and standing on the joint.

The diagnosis of osteoarthritis is usually made based upon the patient's medical history, physical examination, and X-ray findings. An MRI may be helpful in some cases to confirm the diagnosis and rule out any other conditions.


As with any injury, your doctor will be the best source of advice on the appropriate treatment method for your situation. Non-surgical options include:
Losing Weight - Weight loss can help reduce the amount of stress on your ankle and foot.
Oral Medications - Use of anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin can help reduce irritation and pain caused by osteoarthritis. Your doctor may also prescribe a steroid medication if inflammation is severe.
Orthotics - A special ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) may help support the bottom of your foot to alleviate pain when walking. Pads and arch supports may also help provide extra cushioning.
Arthritis Ankle Braces - Ankle braces for osteoarthritis can help provide the support your foot and ankle need when moving around. In addition to helping with stability, they also provide compression to reduce swelling.
Physical Therapy - Your doctor may suggest physical therapy to strengthen the areas around the affected joints and to help stretch the ligaments. In most cases, appropriate exercise has been shown to alleviate pain from osteoarthritis.
Steroid Injection - If inflammation and pain is severe, a steroid injection may be used to deliver anti-inflammatory medication.
Surgery may be required if no improvement is seen with non-surgical treatments or if osteoarthritis has progressed to later stages.


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