One of the most common causes of disability in the United States is the condition known as arthritis. Although it typically appears after the age of 40, there are people of all ages who face the pain of arthritis. Arthritis sufferers come from all walks of life, but it is more common for women than men to be affected. The word “arthritis” refers to painful inflammation, swelling, and stiffness in the joints. This broad term refers to many related and painful conditions that affect sufferers at various levels and in different joints.
Three Types of Arthritis that Affect the Ankles
There are multiple types of arthritis, but three are the most common when it comes to ankles:
- Osteoarthritis is the “wear and tear” form of arthritis. This one generally shows up during the middle age years and results from the natural wearing down of the cartilage at the end of joint bones. The condition comes on and increases slowly, getting worse and harder to live with as it progresses.
- Post-traumatic arthritis takes places when the ankle has been affected by an injury. Although the injury may have taken place years before arthritis appears, it can still trigger the development of arthritis. Injuries that have been known to cause the condition include sprains, fractures, and stress injuries.
- Rheumatoid arthritis happens when the immune system begins to attack the body’s joints and ligaments. This form of arthritis usually spreads throughout the entire system, eventually attacking all of the joints.
Risk Factors for Ankle Arthritis
There are several factors that an increase the likelihood that arthritis will occur. These risk factors include:
- Family history
While none of the factors will guarantee the development of arthritis, they can each drastically increase a person’s vulnerability to the condition. For example, an athlete who injures their ankle is about seven times more likely to develop arthritis than the person who did not experience the injury. This remains true even when the injury was given proper treatment. Another example involves obesity. The extra weight carried on a person’s joints can lead to an increase in wear and tear on the bones, ligaments, and other elements of the joint.
Treatment Options for Ankle Arthritis
Doctors have a variety of options when it comes to proper treatment for arthritis. Medication may be prescribed to reduce swelling and to relieve pain. Sometimes inserts, custom-made shoes, or braces will be recommended. The use of specialized exercise and physical therapy can relieve swelling and reduce pain as well. Balanced diets that discourage swelling or aid in weight loss may be developed. Surgery is an option that doctors might present to patients who have reached the point when other methods are no longer effective.
So far, there is no known cure for arthritis. However, there are many different methods of treatment. The courses of treatment run from lifestyle changes that alleviate the discomfort of minor cases of arthritis to the surgical replacement of joints, such as the ankles. Across the board, though, treatment seems to be more success when it is implemented early. Then, when surgery becomes necessary, the arthritis sufferer has already learned to reduce pain and has developed the healthy habits to speed their recovery.