Overview of ankle osteoarthritis symptoms and diagnosis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common cause of pain and disability in adults. As you age, it’s common to feel pain and stiffness in your feet and ankles. Although clinicians do not know specifically what causes OA, the pain you feel in your ankles is believed to be caused by overuse and wear and tear.
At the ends of bones, you have cartilage, which is a slippery tissue that helps bones glide over each other—it keeps the joints working smoothly. Additionally, cartilage works as a shock absorber for your movements.
Over the years, the cartilage, which normally cushions your joints, wears away. The joints aren’t as protected as they should be then, and the bones can start to rub on each other, leading to pain, stiffness, and swelling.
As more time passes, the joint affected by osteoarthritis may lose its normal shape. Additionally, you may develop bone spurs on the edges of the joint. You may also have bits of bone and/or cartilage break off your joint; they then “float” in the joint space, and that can cause more damage and pain.
A sudden injury to the ankle, such as a broken bone, torn ligament or moderate ankle sprain, can increase the risk of developing arthritis, even years later. Obesity and a family history of osteoarthritis can also increase your risk.
Severe arthritis of the ankle can reduce your mobility, but proper treatment can slow the development of arthritis and improve your quality of life.
Symptoms of ankle arthritis can include:
- Pain and tenderness
- Reduce motion
- Difficulty walking
Your doctor will ask about your medical history and symptoms, and conduct a physical exam. He or she will ask when your pain started, whether it is worse at night, whether it gets worse when you walk or run, and whether it is constant or comes and goes. Your doctor will also ask about whether you have injured your foot or ankle in the past, and if so, how it was treated.
You may undergo a gait analysis, a session in which you are observed while you walk, to show how the bones in your leg and foot line up when you walk. It also measures your stride and tests the strength of your ankles and feet.
Your doctor may order additional tests, such as an x-ray, bone scan, CT scan or MRI to evaluate your ankle.