Arthritis in Foot and Ankle | MedStar Health

At MedStar Health, you will find the most experienced team of orthopedic ankle arthritis specialists, as well as the most comprehensive care available.

Our MedStar Orthopedic Institute has fellowship-trained specialists who have training in total ankle joint replacement, or arthroplasty, offering this advanced surgery close to where you live and work in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, MD regions. In addition to ankle replacement, our team provides a full range of treatments for ankle arthritis from joint preserving arthroscopy to minimally invasive ankle fusion.

Our team approach makes it easy for our specialists to work together with any other specialists you need to care for your arthritis. Specialists may include rheumatologists, vascular specialists, or plastic surgeons.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis refers to the wearing away of the cartilage tissue that lines your joints. This creates inflammation that can cause pain, swelling, and joint damage. Depending on the severity, arthritis can even be debilitating, especially when the condition affects the feet or ankles. Because we rely on our feet and ankles for support while standing, walking, or performing sports, arthritic pain or damage to these joints can disrupt our everyday lives.

What kinds of arthritis affect the foot and ankle?

Arthritis can occur in many different forms, each with different causes. We treat patients suffering from numerous types of arthritis in the feet, including:

  • Osteoarthritis in feet or ankles: The natural aging process can wear away at the cartilage between the bones connecting your ankle and foot, causing inflammation and pain.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis in feet or ankles: This immune system dysfunction attacks and wears away at the cartilage lining between the bones in your ankles and feet.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis in feet or ankles: This is a form of osteoarthritis that results from an injury to the ankle area. This can develop even years after the original injury.

What are the symptoms?

If you notice signs of arthritis in your toes, feet, or ankles, it is important to visit an orthopedic specialist at MedStar Health. Ankle arthritis symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the ankle and foot joints
  • Swelling
  • Redness or heat in the area
  • Trouble moving the ankles, feet, or toes, or difficulty walking

How is it diagnosed?

Our orthopedic surgeons are experts at diagnosing the full range of ankle arthritis problems. Our initial exam includes:

  • Medical history evaluation: This includes asking questions about when your pain began, whether it affects one or both ankles, and where the pain feels most severe. Other questions may be about previous injuries, whether you have other medical problems, and if you take any medications.
  • Physical exam: Your orthopedist will examine your ankles and feet and watch how you walk to evaluate alignment and strength in your ankles.
  • Imaging tests: Depending on your specific condition, your orthopedist may want to examine the bones and joints in more detail using X-rays, bone scans, CT scans, or MRI scans.

What are the treatment options?

Treatment usually depends on what specific type of arthritis you have, and how severe it is. Our team will recommend any combination of non-surgical and surgical treatment options designed to ease your pain and improve your ability to move and walk. Treatment options that do not involve surgery may include:

  • Orthotics

  • Pain or anti-inflammatory medication

  • Canes or braces

  • Physical therapy

If conservative treatment options do not improve your condition, we may recommend surgery. Our surgeons are experienced in the most advanced and innovative procedures for ankle arthritis treatment, including: