As America’s aging population continues to remain more active into their later years, maintaining proper ankle health and mobility is a growing concern, especially for those at risk of developing ankle arthritis.
Ankle arthritis can develop at any age, but is most common after age 50. While about three times less common than knee or hip arthritis, ankle arthritis can be just as painful. Most people who develop the condition have sustained a severe injury to the ankle in the past, but there are other causes, including previous infections, inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, or wear and tear osteoarthritis. Men are more likely than women to suffer from ankle arthritis.
Most people who develop the condition will feel pain, particularly after walking, standing or other activities. Some may also notice swelling, warmth or a sensation that the ankle “locks-up,” or gets stuck in one position occasionally. These symptoms may restrict a person from participating in certain sports, or may even make performing simple everyday activities uncomfortable.
Fortunately, there are many treatments available for ankle arthritis. Your doctor may first try medications, braces, injections or exercises to improve pain and other symptoms. If these are not enough, surgery may be recommended. Surgical options range from procedures to remove scarring, bone spurs and loose pieces from within the joint, to more complicated surgeries such as fusions or ankle replacements.
The board-certified foot and ankle surgeons at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) are the only providers in the Big Bend and South Georgia region offering ankle replacement surgeries. During the procedure, the worn-out portion of the tibia (or upper ankle joint) and the worn-out portion of the talus (or lower portion of the ankle joint) are replaced with two metal pieces. These two metal pieces then have a piece of plastic placed between them, which slides, allowing the ankle to maintain its normal motion.
The primary benefit of any ankle replacement over treatments in the past is that it allows the maintenance of normal motion of the ankle. This allows patients to walk more normally and maintain an active lifestyle a little more easily than they did in the past with an ankle fusion or a brace. With this procedure, patients are only in a cast for six weeks after surgery, versus three months after an ankle fusion.
If you have developed ankle arthritis, it is important to talk with an orthopedic surgeon to determine which treatment option is best for you. To learn more about ankle replacement surgery at Tallahassee Memorial, please visit TMH.ORG/Ortho.