Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons offer guidance in honor of National Arthritis Awareness Month
May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, a time to bring attention to a disease that affects one in four adults in the United States. Arthritis can occur in any joint in the body, including the ankle, when the cartilage breaks down. Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons explain the signs of ankle arthritis and ways to relieve your pain.
How do I know if I have ankle arthritis?
“Patients with ankle arthritis typically experience pain at their ankle joint, particularly with activity,” said foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon, Jeremy J. McCormick, MD, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “This pain may be associated with symptoms such as swelling, stiffness, or a sense of instability.”
If you are experiencing ongoing pain and stiffness in your ankle and having difficulty with walking or other activities, make an appointment with a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon. They will review your medical history, perform a physical exam, and take X-rays to determine the type and severity of your ankle arthritis.
What can I do to relieve ankle arthritis pain?
Based on their diagnosis of your ankle arthritis, your surgeon will recommend a treatment plan. Bruce J. Sangeorzan, MD, a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, urges patients to try nonsurgical treatments to improve symptoms before considering surgery. These treatment options can include rest, limiting activities, anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections into the joint, or specialty braces that stabilize the ankle.
If you are still experiencing ankle pain and difficulty walking after trying nonoperative treatments, you may be a candidate for surgery. Drs. McCormick and Sangeorzan note that there are two common surgical procedures for end-stage ankle arthritis that can help patients decrease pain and as a result participate in more normal activity.
1. Ankle Fusion
An ankle fusion is a surgery that removes the cartilage of the ankle joint and uses plates and screws to attach (or “fuse”) the leg bone to the foot bone. This surgery eliminates motion in the ankle and the pain associated with it.
2. Total Ankle Replacement
Similar to a hip or knee replacement, ankle replacement surgery removes the ankle joint and replaces it with an artificial implant made of metal and plastic. This implant allows the patient to have movement in their ankle without pain.
Studies have shown that both ankle fusion and ankle replacement significantly improve patients’ pain and function. Talk to a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon to identify the procedure that is most appropriate for you based on your medical history and risk factors.
Learn more about ankle arthritis from FootCareMD.
About Foot and Ankle Orthopaedic Surgeons
Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the foot and ankle. Their education and training consist of four years of medical school, five years of postgraduate residency, and a fellowship year of specialized surgical training. These specialists care for patients of all ages, performing reconstructive surgery for deformities and arthritis, treating sports injuries, and managing foot and ankle trauma.
About the AOFAS
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) mobilizes our dynamic community of foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons to improve patient care through education, research, and advocacy. As the premier global organization for foot and ankle care, AOFAS delivers exceptional events and resources for continuous education, funds and promotes innovative research, and broadens patient understanding of foot and ankle conditions and treatments. By emphasizing collaboration and excellence, AOFAS inspires ever-increasing levels of professional performance leading to improved patient outcomes. For more information visit the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society online at aofas.org.
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