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What is Ankle Arthritis?

Arthritis is a condition which affects joints in the body. The surface of the joint is damaged and the surrounding bone grows thicker.

To understand how arthritis develops, you need to know how a normal joint works. A joint is where two bones meet. The ends of the bones are covered by a thin layer of gristle called cartilage. This cartilage cushions the joint and spreads the forces evenly when you put pressure on the joint. The smooth, slippery cartilage surface also allows the bone ends to move freely. When a joint develops arthritis, the cartilage gradually roughens and becomes thin, and the bone underneath thickens or erodes.

What causes Ankle arthritis?

There are three types of arthritis that may affect your ankle.


Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative or “wear and tear” arthritis, is a common problem for many people after they reach middle age. Over the years, the smooth, gliding surface covering the ends of bones (cartilage) becomes worn and frayed. This results in inflammation, swelling, and pain in the joint. Osteoarthritis progresses slowly and the pain and stiffness it causes worsens over time.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Unlike osteoarthritis which follows a predictable pattern in certain joints, rheumatoid arthritis is a system-wide disease. It is an inflammatory disease where the patient’s own immune system attacks and destroys cartilage.

Post-Traumatic Arthritis

Post-traumatic arthritis can develop after an injury to the foot or ankle. This type of arthritis is similar to osteoarthritis and may develop years after a fracture, severe sprain, or ligament injury.

What are the symptoms and signs of osteoarthritis?

Signs and symptoms of arthritis of the ankle vary, depending on the stage of the arthritis. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain or tenderness
  • Stiffness or reduced motion
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty walking due to any of the above