Osteoarthritis Q & A

Osteoarthritis is also called degenerative joint disease and is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis affects millions of people worldwide. While osteoarthritis occurs most commonly in the hands, knee, hips, and spine, it can affect any joint in the body, including the ankles and feet. Osteoarthritis symptoms include pain, swelling, tenderness, stiffness, and loss of mobility in the affected joints. While the symptoms of osteoarthritis can usually be managed, the damage to joints cannot be undone, making it important for people suffering from osteoarthritis to seek treatment early and learn to manage the disease before additional damage occurs. Maintaining an active lifestyle and a healthy weight often assist in slowing the progression of the disease and helping to improve joint function.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Arthritis is a word that refers to a group of more than 100 diseases affecting the joints. The term “arthritis” literally means “Joint inflammation.” Arthritis means that there are pain and swelling in the soft tissue surrounding the joints and in the joints themselves. The causes and treatment of different types of arthritis are varied.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It is also referred to as “wear and tear” or “old age” arthritis, as it is caused by the wearing down of the cartilage in the joints, resulting in injury and inflammation in the joints. Osteoarthritis most commonly occurs as people advance in age, although there are exceptions.

As a person ages, time, use, and occasionally injuries will contribute to the breakdown of the cartilage in the joints. Cartilage tissues are the soft, slippery cushions at the ends of your bones that allow joints to move smoothly. The loss of cartilage tissues over time means that the bones have less cushion and begin to rub on each other, causing pain and inflammation. Over time, the inflammation will result in reversible damage to the joints and sometimes joint deformity.

Osteoarthritis in Ankles

Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the ankle at the joint where the ankle and the shinbone meet. Stiffness, pain, popping or cracking, and a loss of free mobility in the ankle are common signs of osteoarthritis in the ankle. The symptoms are often ignored in the early stages, but can eventually begin to interfere with everyday activities if left untreated.

Ankle osteoarthritis can be felt like a low level, aching pain or a sudden, sharp and intense pain. Some individuals experience low-level pain that they chalk up to “old age” but then have flare-ups where the pain is significantly worse for several days and then returns to the “tolerable” low-level pain that they were accustomed to.

The pain associated with osteoarthritis can come and go in the early stages, leading many people to ignore the symptoms or brush them off as a recurrence of an old injury. Early diagnosis and treatment of ankle osteoarthritis are essential to proper treatment and slowing of the disease.

If you are experiencing pain in the lower shin that may come and go, or low-level pain that sometimes flares up and is worse, you should be evaluated for ankle osteoarthritis. Dr. Kleis will perform a thorough examination and take a full patient history to help determine whether your symptoms can be contributed to ankle osteoarthritis or if there are other causes to be considered.

To schedule a consultation with Dr. Kleis, call (714) 760-4944 today!

Osteoarthritis in Feet

A person’s feet and ankles have 28 bones and more than 30 joints. Each joint has cartilage tissues cushioning the end of the bone to allow for free, frictionless movement of the joint. Over time, or sometimes due to injuries, the cartilage tissues wear away, leaving the bones more exposed and more likely to rub against one another, causing irritation and inflammation of the lining of the joint. Inflammation causes an increased likelihood of cartilage wear, increasing the damage to the area. Treating the inflammation is an important step to slowing the progress of the disease and maintaining optimal joint health.

Foot osteoarthritis most often occurs in the joints of the foot involving the heel bone, the inner mid-foot bone, the outer mid-foot bone, the joint of the big toe, and the joint where the ankle and shinbone meet. Foot osteoarthritis symptoms include pain or tenderness in the joints, lack of flexibility in the joint, and pain when bearing weight that may reduce the ability to walk easily or bear weight on one or both feet. Noticeable swelling may or may not be present with foot osteoarthritis. Just because the inflammation cannot be seen, doesn’t mean it isn’t present.

If you are experiencing symptoms of osteoarthritis in your feet or ankles, schedule a consultation with Dr. Kleis. Dr. Kleis will evaluate your condition and create a treatment plan that will help manage your symptoms and prevent further damage to the joints of your feet.

Risk Factors for Osteoarthritis in the Feet and Ankles

While age is the primary contributing factor for osteoarthritis, there are other risk factors, as well.

  • Family History – Individuals with a family history of osteoarthritis are more likely to develop the condition.
  • Flat Feet – Flat feet cause the foot to be less stable through the ligaments of the foot, which results in excessive strain on the joints. This added strain wears down the cartilage in the joints, resulting in osteoarthritis over time.
  • High Arches – A high arch can cause the foot to be less flexible than it might otherwise be. This lack of flexibility causes the joints to move in an abnormal way, causing additional wear and tear, resulting in an increased likelihood of osteoarthritis.
  • Obesity – Increased body weight places additional strain on the joints, causing the cartilage tissues to break down faster.
  • Injuries – Injuries to the foot or ankle can develop into osteoarthritis later on in life.
  • Gender - Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than are men, though the reason for that is unknown.
  • Age – Most people over the age of 60 experience some level of osteoarthritis. In some individuals, the effects of the disease are mild and cause little to no discomfort, while it is nearly debilitating in others.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in the Feet and Ankles

The symptoms of osteoarthritis vary between individuals. However, most people with osteoarthritis in their feet or ankles will experience the following symptoms to some degree.

  • Pain in the joints.
  • Stiffness in the foot or ankle.
  • Swelling in or around the joint.
  • Difficulty walking or moving the joint.

Some patients with osteoarthritis will develop a bony protrusion at the affected joint, called a bone spur. Bone spurs at the joint can cause pain when wearing shoes, and occasionally, people will experience blisters or calluses at the site of the bone spur, caused by pressure from shoes.

Diagnosing Osteoarthritis in Feet and Ankles

First, Dr. Kleis performs a comprehensive physical exam and reviews your medical history. If he suspects arthritis is present, he may take laboratory tests to rule out rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a progressive condition that causes the immune system to attack your joints. He may also take an X-ray to evaluate the severity of the condition.

After confirming the problem is osteoarthritis, Dr. Kleis creates a personalized treatment plan to address your case.

Dr. Kleis examines every possible option before recommending surgery. If your condition is severe or fails to improve with treatment, he discusses the best surgical procedures to relieve your osteoarthritis symptoms.

If you think you have arthritis in your foot or ankle, call or book an appointment online with Dr. Kleis today.

Treatments for Osteoarthritis in Feet and Ankles

There are non-surgical treatments available for osteoarthritis in the foot or ankle. This treatment may include the foll0wing approaches:

  • Oral Medications – Oral medications that reduce inflammation are often helpful in controlling the symptoms of osteoarthritis. NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, are helpful in decreasing the inflammation around affected joints, which can help reduce pain and further damage to joints.
  • Orthotic Devices – Custom shoe inserts can provide support to the foot and improve mechanics and cushioning. Orthotic devices can minimize pain and help prevent additional damage. 
  • Bracing – Braces restrict motion and support the joint. Bracing can help reduce pain and help prevent additional damage.
  • Boot or Cast – Immobilization can protect the joints from movement and is occasionally necessary to allow the inflammation of osteoarthritis to resolve. 
  • Injections – Occasionally, injections of steroidal medications may be necessary to deliver anti-inflammatory medications directly to the affected joint. 
  • Physical Therapy – Physical therapy exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the affected joints, relieving pressure on the joint and allowing the inflammation to resolve. 

Is Surgery Necessary for Osteoarthritis in the Feet and Ankles?

Surgery is not usually necessary for treating osteoarthritis in the feet and ankles. In advanced cases, however, surgery may be the only option for decreasing pain and improving the function of joints. Only an experienced surgeon can determine whether osteoarthritis requires surgery.

Osteoarthritis Specialist

If you have osteoarthritis in your feet or ankles, schedule a consultation with Dr. Kleis today. Dr. Kleis will evaluate your condition and develop a treatment plan tailored to meet your needs. Call (714) 760-4944 to book an appointment today!




Call us at 714-760-4944 or fill out the contact form above with your info.

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