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Elderly Arthritis of the Ankle: What Are the Symptoms?

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

Arthritis is a common problem that affects around 10 million people in the UK, especially the elderly. Sufferers deal with daily pain, stiffness and swelling in and around their joints. One commonly affected area are the ankles. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at ankle arthritis and the symptoms.

Arthritis: the basics

Arthritis can be extremely debilitating, and varies in a number of ways – such as:

  • Pain can come and go or be constant
  • Swelling can occur while you are resting or on the go
  • Several parts of your body can be affected or pain and stiffness can be concentrated in one area

The symptoms of arthritis have a massive impact not just on physical health, but also on your mental and emotional well-being. As it is a chronic condition, the constant pain and discomfort can be exhausting and affect every area of your life.

Who does arthritis affect?

Arthritis is not discriminate and can affect anyone at any age. But the most common age group that develop arthritic conditions are elderly people over the age of 65. More women deal with symptoms than men. Approximately 56% of women aged 75-79 live with arthritis, compared to 40% of men in the same age group. This can be due to the hormone changes that occur in women, especially in those that are approaching menopause or perimenopause.

Causes of arthritis in the ankle

The ankle joint is in constant use every day, so when it isn’t working properly, quality of life can be immediately affected. There are a few different reasons why arthritis develops in ankles, including:

  • Injury – the most common cause of arthritis in the ankle is an injury. A previous ankle injury can weaken the joint and damage cartilage, which can lead to arthritis occurring. Ankle injury is susceptible to Osteonecrosis, which is a condition that occurs when blood flow to a bone has been affected. It can lead to arthritis developing if not treated correctly.
  • Rheumatoid disease – An autoimmune disorder, this causes joint inflammation and cartilage damage. Over time, this can develop into arthritis and cause joints to be constantly inflamed.
  • Joint Infections – Cartilage cells can’t regrow, so if they are affected by joint infections, you could end up with permanent damage to your ankle.
  • Genetics – Some people are likely to wear out their joints quicker than others and so there could be a genetic tendency to develop arthritis. Although arthritis doesn’t originate from one particular gene, that doesn’t mean that genetics aren’t a part of how the condition can develop. It can also be caused by a combination of lifestyle factors, for example, diet and exercise.
  • Body weight – Ankle arthritis can develop in people who are overweight. Weight-bearing joints can be damaged faster when a larger amount of weight puts pressure on them. If this happens on a daily basis, the individual is more likely to develop arthritis due to accelerated damage to joint cartilage.

Types of Arthritis


This is the most common type of arthritis in the UK. An estimated 8.75 million people over 45 years of age suffer from osteoarthritis.

Affecting the smooth cartilage that lines your joints, it can make moving very difficult, causing pain, stiffness and swelling. If you have osteoarthritis in your ankle, it can seem like you have a permanently sprained ankle.

When you sprain an ankle, it will swell up and make it hard to walk comfortably. It is common to limp when walking on a damaged ankle and have to deal with stiffness after you have been still for a short while. Imagine that feeling every day, with little relief. That’s what it is like for those with osteoarthritis in their joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Not as common as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system is attacking itself. Joints are affected causing swelling and chronic pain. The shape of a joint can change shape based on the severity of the attack, causing the cartilage to break down.

This happens when a person is between 30 and 50 years old and as with osteoarthritis, women are more affected than men. And problems can occur with other organs and tissues in their bodies as immunity is compromised.

What are the symptoms?

Ankle arthritis causes chronic pain around the joint, which will limit activity and enjoyment of life. If this sounds familiar to you and you are wondering if your joint pain is arthritis, read on for common symptoms.

  • Tenderness around your ankle joint – Usually one of the first symptoms, you may start to notice a weakness and sudden pain in your ankle, that is too painful to stand on.
  • Stiffness in your ankle – Everyone has aches and pains from time to time. But if your ankle is painfully stiff every time you stand up or move after a period of stillness, there is good reason to think you may have arthritis.
  • Swelling, redness or warmth – If your ankle is becoming increasingly warmer and is red and swollen, it is more than likely infected. Fever and chills sometimes accompany infection and so you should contact your GP if you find any red, painful swelling that is warm to the touch.
  • Difficulty walking – You could develop a limp due to pain and weakness in your ankle. This leads to putting less pressure on your foot which, after a period of time, can result in muscle wasting.
  • Tingling and numbness – Damage in your ankle joint can lead to irritated nerves, which in turn means your feet and toes can be affected.
  • Systemic symptoms – If you have any fatigue, fever or weight loss, this could indicate a more serious reason why you have joint pain and you need to see your GP as soon as possible.

What impact does arthritis have on the elderly?

Arthritis can affect people in many ways. Physical health is the most obvious, but it can’t be overstated how much chronic pain affects mental health.

Anxiety and depression can develop when a person is low on energy, in constant pain and have limitations placed on their lifestyle. In particular, elderly people, who already have limits on daily life due to aging or other health problems, will find that arthritis can be a difficult concern for them.

The impacts of arthritis on the elderly can include:

  • Impaired mobility
  • Increased fall risk
  • Loss of independence
  • Reduced sleep quality
  • Weight gain
  • Social isolation
  • Poor diet
  • Declining mental health

Peace of mind with a SureSafe alarm

SureSafe alarms can help elderly sufferers of arthritis feel supported with their condition. Using our personal alarms in daily life gives the chance for older people to live more independently and safely. We offer a broad range of alarms, allowing you to choose features to suit your needs and health conditions.

Contact our professional, friendly team today on 0800 112 3201, request a call back or use our Live Chat.

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