Ankle joint: Arthrosis

Optimum treatment so that you’ll be able to move your foot smoothly again

Three bones, one joint, a thousand steps a day – our ankle joint has to cope with a lot. It is essential for a smooth movement pattern. Put foot down, roll foot, bring leg forward – if that no longer runs like clockwork, cartilage wear, known as ankle joint arthrosis, may be responsible.

Thanks to intensive research, we can treat your arthrosis in the ankle joint well on an individual basis. Our specialists at Schoen Clinic offer you the best-possible treatment for improved quality of life.

Causes & symptoms

How is the ankle joint constructed?

Your ankle joint sits between your lower leg and your foot. It is divided into the upper and lower ankle joint. The upper ankle joint is made up of three bones: the shin bone, the fibula and the ankle bone. To prevent the bones involved from rubbing painfully against each other with every movement and injuring each other, their contact surface within the joint is covered with a smooth, elastic cartilage layer. If this protective “shock absorber” is lost, your bones get closer to each other, what is known as the joint cavity becomes narrower. People talk about joint wear or arthrosis in the ankle joint.

Causes: How does arthrosis in the ankle joint occur?

If injuries occur, these can accelerate wear and tear. The more severe your ankle fracture and the more greatly the load-bearing parts of the joint are involved, the greater the risk of arthrosis. During healing, irregularities can remain in the sliding surface, which then rub over the cartilage layer with every movement. Joint injuries occur particularly often in sports such as basketball and football. Movement is important for the joint. The cartilage is a living tissue that loses its function without training.

Inflammation can also encourage the rapid loss of your cartilage. Rheumatism is thus the second most common cause of arthrosis in the ankle joint. Over time, the chronic inflammation of the joint mucosa leads to severe damage to the joint cartilage and subsequently to the destruction of the entire joint.

Diseases of the nervous system caused by a slipped disc, polio or diabetes also increase the risk.

Being overweight can also trigger arthrosis in the ankle joint as the joints are put under strain by excessive body mass, generally associated with little exercise, over a period of years.

For some patients, ankle joint arthrosis develops without identifiable causes. It is assumed that this is a hereditary disorder of the cartilage. Your joint cartilage is then generally softer and thus more vulnerable. Typically, arthrosis occurs in wider joints, such as the hip or knee joint.

Arthrosis – ankle joint: Symptoms that are signs of cartilage wear

Our body has created a well-functioning signal of injury: Ankle joint pain is the first sign of arthrosis in the ankle joint. At an advanced stage, cracking or rubbing sounds can occur.
If small bony proliferations have formed in your joint, they can make it difficult to move your foot smoothly. You feel as though something is causing a blockage in the joint.

At the start, symptoms only occur under great strain, such as during exercise or running on unsurfaced paths. The more cartilage is broken down, the more often and longer ankle joint pain occurs. Sometimes the first steps after your foot has rested for a while are difficult. Your joint has to “warm up” first. It is then often swollen.
At an advanced stage of arthrosis in the ankle joint, tiredness pain or pain at complete rest also occur. For some patients, the foot becomes stiff.

Diagnostics

Diagnosis: tracking down ankle joint arthrosis

The first detailed conversation concerning your history of illness provides our specialists with valuable clues. Previous accidents with bone fractures, unstable ligaments or inflammatory joint disorders provide a reason to examine your ankle joint more closely. Based on a precise diagnosis, we offer you the ideal treatment for you.

: X-ray images make it possible to see the joint cavity

We now produce X-ray images in two planes under a load. Here, we can measure the distance between the individual joint bones (joint cavity). This is a good indicator of the stage of your ankle joint arthrosis. A narrow joint cavity indicates that cartilage in the joint has been rubbed off, i.e. arthrosis already exists.
Deformities of the joint and bone spurs that can hinder the joint are also visible on X-rays.

Magnetic resonance and computer tomography provide further information

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be required to better assess your joint cartilage. We can also identify possible damage to your tendons and ligaments here. We perform a CT scan if we want to better show deformities in the joint. Your bone is shown more precisely here than with an X-ray or MRI.
In the event of pronounced signs of inflammation or the suspicion of rheumatism, we further narrow down the cause of your arthrosis with a blood test.