Foot & Ankle Arthritis


  • Pain in the foot and ankle
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Joints of the foot and ankle may be warm and tender to the touch
  • Deformities such as enlarged toe joints or crooked toes

What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is the loss of cartilage (cushioning material) between the bones resulting in bone-on-bone contact. Loss of this cartilage results in pain and a limited range of motion. In severe cases, the joint may become unstable, resulting in boney bumps or spurs surrounding the joint.

Two types of arthritis commonly occur in the foot and ankle, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic inflammatory disease that affects the lining of your joints. The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is often the result of overuse or injury. Osteoarthritis is a result of the loss of cartilage in a joint and often causes bone spurs to develop around the areas of wear and tear. These deformities can be extremely painful and disrupt normal foot and ankle function as arthritis affects the alignment of the joint surfaces. All types of arthritis can cause aching, swelling, and stiffness in the joints.

Nonsurgical Treatments

Splinting the affected joint(s), taking anti-inflammatories, and/or receiving corticosteroid injection(s) may help treat the pain and discomfort associated with mild cases of arthritis. Over-the-counter supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may be helpful. While nonsurgical treatment can relieve mild cases of the condition, surgery may be necessary if it continues to worsen.

Surgical Treatment Options

Ankle Joint Replacement (Arthroplasty)

With advanced improvements in implant technology, ankle joint replacement is commonly performed to relieve pain and improve the function of an arthritic ankle joint. Ankle prostheses provide proper realignment of the joint and freedom of motion, decreasing the amount of stresses placed on adjacent joints. An ankle replacement can decrease the progression of arthritis in other areas of that extremity.

Joint Fusion (Arthrodesis)

Depending upon age and level of activity, the best option may be to fuse the joint using a minimally invasive technique. Dr. Tuvi Mendel may decide to use pins, plates, or screws to completely fuse the bones. A joint fusion eliminates pain and only slightly impairs function. Unlike replacement, joint fusions may increase the stresses placed on other joints, leading to arthritis in other areas.

Arthroscopic Debridement (Minimally Invasive)

Less severe cases of ankle arthritis often respond to surgical debridement, which means “to clean up the joint.” By removing bone spurs and damaged tissue, our board-certified orthopaedic surgeons can improve joint function. During surgery, small incisions are made around the affected joint and an arthroscope (small video camera) is inserted to allow Dr. Mendel to view the surgery on a monitor. Special instrumentation is used to remove the arthritis. This technique results in smaller incisions, less scarring, less pain, and faster recovery.