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Ankle arthritis

Arthritis is a painful, common condition that can occur in the joints, including in the ankle joint. There are many different types of arthritis and anyone, including children, can develop the condition. However, the most common forms of arthritis occur in adults over the age of 40.

What is ankle arthritis?

Ankle arthritis is a condition that causes pain, inflammation and stiffness in the ankle. Although there are many different types of arthritis, the two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are very similar, although they have different causes. There is also another type of arthritis that affects the ankle, called post-traumatic arthritis.

What are the symptoms of ankle arthritis?

Ankle arthritis can cause various different symptoms, but the main symptoms are pain and inflammation within the ankle joint.

Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty moving and putting weight on your foot
  • Experiencing a reduced range of motion in the ankle
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Tenderness on touching your ankle
  • Pain and stiffness after resting for long periods of time such as overnight
  • Muscle weakness

What causes ankle arthritis?

Osteoarthritis is known as ‘wear and tear’ arthritis as it’s caused by the wearing down of the cartilage that cushions the joints as we age. It’s more common in the over 40s and can affect the ankle joint as well as the other joints in the body. It can cause the cartilage to wear away completely, causing the bones of the ankle to rub together, causing severe pain and inflammation.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease which means that the immune system attacks the joints of the body, including the ankle joint. It causes pain and inflammation in the joint and can cause the cartilage and bone to break down. It’s unclear what causes someone’s immune system to begin to attack their joints.

Post-traumatic arthritis is caused by degenerative changes after an injury to the ankle. It may develop years after the initial trauma.

How is ankle arthritis diagnosed?

Ankle arthritis is always diagnosed by a doctor, which could be your GP or an orthopaedic specialist. Your doctor will ask questions about your medical history and lifestyle and will examine your ankle. They may also examine your ankle whilst you walk (called a gait analysis) and they may use x-rays or MRI scans to get a definitive answer.

How is ankle arthritis treated?

Ankle arthritis can be managed with anti-inflammatory painkillers, either over the counter such as ibuprofen, or prescribed if you need stronger pain relief. Insoles and supports that are measured to fit you and worn in your shoe are also helpful. Custom made shoes can also help, as can physiotherapy.

More severe forms of the condition can be managed with steroid injections and potentially surgery to fuse or replace the joint. Your doctor will advise you based on your individual circumstances.

If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

This content has been checked and approved by

Mr Lloyd (Robert) Williams  ›

Mr Lloyd (Robert) Williams is an Orthopaedic Surgeon at King Edward VII’s Hospital and founding Partner of The London Orthopaedic Clinic, based at the Hospital.

Find your specialist in ankle arthritis at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you suspect you have ankle arthritis and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading orthopaedic and rheumatology specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Ms Susan Alexander  ›
Special interests include:
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Mr Toby Baring  ›
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Mr David Butt  ›
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Mr Peter Reilly  ›
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Mr Andrew Sankey  ›
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Mr Andrew Wallace  ›
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Mr James White  ›
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