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What causes osteoarthritis?

You are more likely to have osteoarthritis, usually shortened to ‘arthritis’ as you age, especially if you’ve had previous damage to the ankle such as a fracture or sprain or if you have arthritis in other joints. You’re also more likely to be affected if you have had an infection in your ankle or if you have a bleeding disorder such as haemophilia.

What are the signs of ankle arthritis?

Signs include:

  • Having pain when you move your ankle
  • Swelling around the ankle joint
  • Difficulty fitting into your normal shoes
  • Pain becoming worse, even when you are resting
  • The ankle joint becoming deformed, causing you to limp

Sometimes people wait for years before seeing a doctor about their arthritis, during which time the condition becomes worse, with pain and stiffness increasing, making normal movement difficult. Early treatment, including joint preservation surgery can help to avoid the need for ankle fusion surgery in the future.

How is ankle arthritis diagnosed?

During your first appointment, you’ll have an opportunity to discuss your symptoms with Mr Heidari who will usually carry out a number of diagnostic tests. These may include an X-ray or MRI scan to identify any damage to the ankle joint.

What does treatment involve?

Not everyone with ankle arthritis needs to have surgery and Mr Heidari will be able to advise you about the type of treatment that’s best for you. In some cases, it may be possible for you to wear a brace or specially designed shoes or boots to help support your ankle. Along with being prescribed anti-inflammatory painkillers (if advised by your doctor), this may be enough to manage the pain. In some cases, Mr Heidari may also suggest that you have an injection into the ankle to help reduce pain and swelling.

However, if your ankle pain is affecting your everyday life - even though you have tried non-surgical treatments - Mr Heidari may suggest carrying out arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) so that he can repair any damage to the joint. In most cases, however severe the arthritis is, the aim will be to preserve your own ankle joint. This may involve having joint preservation surgery to correct deformities in the ankle and ‘distract’ the joint (separate the damaged joint surfaces from each other). If the joint is too damaged to preserve, then another option is ankle fusion surgery, where your ankle joint is permanently stiffened.

This information is written as a guide to your treatment but it is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Please contact us for advice if you are worried about any aspect of your health or recovery.