My Ankles Are Swollen and Painful: Do I Have Arthritis?

When most people think of arthritis, the knees and hips often come to mind. However, arthritis can also affect your ankles. In fact, ankle arthritis is a common, often overlooked, condition that can cause significant pain, discomfort, and reduced mobility.

If you have swollen, painful ankles, it’s time to seek medical help. Leading the team at Concord Podiatry, board-certified podiatrist Dr. David Biss can help you get to the root of your painful, swollen ankles. Dr. Biss can perform a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose your ankle issue and create a treatment plan to help you get relief.

Ankle arthritis causes pain, stiffness, and swelling. It’s crucial to see a foot and ankle specialist to determine if arthritis is the source of your symptoms. In this blog post, we delve into the three main types of ankle arthritis — osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis. 

Osteoarthritis: The wear-and-tear of life

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, typically developing as you age. It’s often referred to as wear-and-tear arthritis because it results from years of joint use that causes the cartilage to gradually break down. 

Pain in the ankle joint is often the first sign of osteoarthritis. It may be mild at first, but it tends to worsen with activity or as the day progresses. The joint may also feel stiff, particularly after periods of inactivity.

Your ankle may appear swollen or puffy, especially after exercise or prolonged standing. As the cartilage wears away, bone spurs may form, limiting your range of motion and making it difficult to move your ankle. 

You may notice a grating or crunching sensation when moving the ankle joint, which is caused by the bone rubbing against bone.

Rheumatoid arthritis: When the immune system attacks

In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, leading to inflammation and damage. While it primarily affects the hands and feet, it can also occur in the ankle joint. 

Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect both ankles simultaneously. Ankle stiffness is usually most severe upon waking and may last for an hour or more.

Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause overall fatigue and muscle weakness, making it difficult to carry out daily activities. As the disease progresses, the ankle joint may become misaligned or deformed.

Post-traumatic arthritis: When injury comes back to haunt you

Post-traumatic arthritis can develop after an injury to the ankle, such as a fracture or severe sprain. It occurs when the damaged cartilage and bone fails to heal properly, leading to joint instability and inflammation. 

Pain in the ankle that persists long after an injury has healed may be a sign of post-traumatic arthritis. The ankle joint may be stiff and difficult to move, especially after periods of inactivity.

Additionally, the ankle may feel unstable or prone to giving way, increasing the risk of further injury. Swelling of the ankle joint may be present, particularly after activity.

Take charge of your joint health

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of ankle arthritis is the first step toward managing it and maintaining your quality of life. If you suspect you may have ankle arthritis, a proper diagnosis is key to getting the treatment and relief you need.

Get started today by calling the Concord Podiatry team to have Dr. Biss evaluate your ankles. Don’t let ankle pain and swelling keep you from enjoying your life and the things you love. Contact the nearest office to schedule a visit — our clinics are located in Concord and Plymouth, New Hampshire.

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