Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the ankle joints in the same way as other joints.
Most often, rheumatoid arthritis or RA affects the hands and feet, but, less commonly, it can also affect the ankles.
The condition typically impacts on smaller joints first, such as the toe joints in the foot. It may then move to larger joints, such as the ankles. RA in the ankles can impede walking and cause considerable discomfort.
In this article, we take a close look at how RA affects the ankles, including the symptoms, and how people can relieve pain and swelling.
How does RA affect the ankles?
Symptoms of RA tend to come and go in cycles called flares that may last a few days or several weeks. People may notice their symptoms are worse in the morning or at night.
As it does in other joints, RA can cause inflammation and stiffness in the ankle joints as a result of long-term inflammation. Over time, the structure of the ankle joints can be affected, leading to permanent changes in the shape of the joints.
The ankle joint connects the bones of the leg to the foot. It is made up of two smaller joints that act as a hinge to move the foot. Movements, such as walking, rely on properly functioning ankle joints.
The bones in the ankle joint contain cartilage that protects them from rubbing against each other. RA causes this to break down over time, increasing the friction between the bones.
This friction between bones can produce inflammation around the ankle joint. The surrounding tissues that support the ankle may also be damaged, causing them to become weak and unstable and unable to support the joint fully.
In many cases, people with RA in the ankles also have other symptoms in their feet. Commonly affected areas are:
- the heel of the foot, particularly the Achilles tendon when nodules appear
- the middle of the foot and bones below the ankle (if the tendons and ligaments become lax, this can cause a flat foot)
- the front ball of the foot
- the toes
|Read on: Rheumatoid arthritis in the ankles: Symptoms and treatment|