Ankle Problems? Some Are Temporary, Some Are Chronic
Most of us suffer ankle problems at one time or another, and most of the time the symptoms are not severe and only temporary. In the event of a severe sprain or break however there will usually be a significant amount of pain, accompanied by bruising and/or swelling. Finally, there are chronic ankle problems, which require attention and treatment in direct proportion to the discomfort or pain that is being experienced. We'll look into the most common causes and symptoms which fall within the broad category of ankle problems.
When one considers all the pressure placed upon our ankles while we undertake normal, everyday activities, it's a wonder that we don't experience more ankle problems than we do. Accidents are probably the number one cause of these problems, followed by infections, disease or disorders affecting the ankle only, and ankle problems which are actually a symptom of a systemic disease.
Ankle Pain - Pain is of course the symptom which gets our immediate attention. Pain will almost certainly accompany a break or a sprain, and in fact can be severe enough that we cannot put weight or pressure on the ankle. When we sprain an ankle, the injury most often occurs on the outside or lateral part of the ankle, over the fibula. The intensity and duration of the pain is almost always directly proportional to the severity of the sprain. In milder cases one may have to stay off of the foot for but a few hours, and possibly avoid athletic activity for a few days. With a severe sprain, one can end up on crutches, and face several weeks or even longer in recovery.
Arthritis And Gout - Not all ankle problems involving pain are due to an injury. Arthritis in one of the ankle joints is a frequent cause of pain. Pain that comes and goes is sometimes a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis, and is often accompanied by stiffness. Pain that comes and goes with changes in the weather, or becomes progressively worse throughout the day, can be a symptom of osteoarthritis. Less common, but no less painful, are symptoms of gout, a condition caused by an excess of uric acid in the blood. When a gout attack occurs, the ankle will usually be very sensitive to the slightest pressure, and resting with the leg up is often needed to relieve the pain.
Ankle problems involving pain and swelling where one cannot recall injuring the ankle, or the ankle definitely has not suffered an injury, demand careful attention, as the symptoms could be indicative of either an infection in an ankle bone or joint, or rheumatic fever, a potentially very serious condition. If either condition is even remotely suspected, a doctor should be seen right away.
Chondral Fracture - Sometimes pain is the result of hat is known as a chondral fracture, where not a bone, but a cartilage has been damaged. Being a soft tissue, the injury may not always be correctly diagnosed, as it will not show up on an X-ray. A MRI scan is needed to diagnose and pinpoint the problem. If not treated, the condition can become chronic and difficult, and in some instances impossible, to completely correct.
Numbness In The Ankle - There are ankle problems that do not have pain, bruising, or swelling as symptoms. Numbness in one or both ankles can be one of these. Numbness can either be a local problem, caused by nerve compression at some location within the ankle, or can be one symptom of a systemic disease such as diabetes, or a general nervous system disorder. If local, the cause may be nothing more than poor fitting shoes. Tarsal tunnel syndrome in the ankle is another possibility. This disorder is similar to the better known, and more often experienced, carpal tunnel syndrome affecting the wrists.
Popping And Snapping - Finally, we can have episodes where ankles pop or snap. These pops and snaps are usually painless, and generally are a result of stretching of the tissues surrounding the joints. Occasionally an ankle pop means that a tendon has moved in and out of its normal position. If the tendon has to be pushed back into its normal location, it's called a dislocation. If the situation becomes frequent or chronic, it should be looked into.