Rheumatoid arthritis is a degenerative condition that can cause problems in your joints. It typically beings in smaller joints, like in your fingers or toes, and then it can progress to larger joints, like your ankles. But how does this condition affect your ankles, and how can it be best treated? We answer those questions and more in today’s blog.
Causes and Symptoms of RA In Your Ankles
RA is an inflammatory condition, which means that it causes long-term inflammation in the joints. Over time, this chronic inflammation can cause a host of symptoms, including pain, stiffness, limited range of motion, muscle weakness and inhibited gait. Left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic inflammation can actually lead to permanent changes in the shape of the ankle joint, so it’s best to confront the problem head on.
There is no known root cause for rheumatoid arthritis, but it tends to occur in older adults who have cartilage breakdown in their joints. When cartilage loss occurs, the friction between the two bone surfaces increases, which can cause inflammation in the joint. Prolonged inflammation can lead to joint damage or instability, but this usually happens slowly over time, so you should see a foot specialist at the first sign of a problem. Although rheumatoid arthritis can’t be reversed, the condition can be treated so symptom progression does not continue.
Diagnosing and Treating RA of the Ankles
Your doctor can diagnose rheumatoid arthritis in a couple of simple steps. They’ll begin by listening to your physical symptoms and asking about your family history. From there, they’ll conduct some physical tests to look for symptom prevalence or range of motion in the joint, and then they’ll confirm their suspicions with the help of an X-ray, MRI or ultrasound. Early damage to the ankle joint is easily spotted during an imaging test, so X-rays commonly help to diagnose the condition. If imaging tests are unavailable, a doctor may also be able to diagnose the condition with the assistance of a blood test.
Treating the condition is pretty straightforward, but again, your not going to be able to reverse the damage done by rheumatoid arthritis. However, many people who seek out treatment report a decrease in symptoms and an increase in quality of life, so it definitely has benefits.
The most common treatment course involves moderate intensity exercise, adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, and taking anti-inflammatory medications. If you’re a smoker, your doctor will also ask your to consider stopping or limiting your smoking, as studies have shown that this can make RA symptoms worse and inhibit treatment.
In rare cases, or if damage is severe, surgery may be necessary to fuse the ankle joint together to prevent constant irritation from bone on bone rubbing. Ankle replacement surgery is another option that can help to restore joint mobility in patients with severe joint damage, and your doctor can walk you through the specifics of each procedure should it come to this. However, when caught early enough and treated proactively, surgery is rarely needed.