Most of us have injured an ankle at one point or another during our life. Too often we don’t see the curb or pothole while walking or roll the ankle while participating in a sport. Whether you suffered a sprain or fracture of the ankle, long-term damage may have occured. Read more about ankle fractures versus ankle sprains on our blog here. One complication of a sprain or fracture is called osteochondral lesions. This type of complication causes pain, ankle instability, swelling, and possibly locking or clicking of the ankle joint.
Injuring the ankle can cause damage to a bone called the talus and the cartilage on the talus. Cartilage is important in a joint because it allows the two bones to glide with minimal friction causing less pain. When cartilage is damaged or lost joints can become very painful. The cause of this damage can be mainly attributed to ankle sprains or “rolling” your ankle. It is the extreme force that is put on the cartilage of the talus that causes this injury. Although this damage typically occurs after one incident, it can also develop with repeated injury to the affected joint.
Symptoms of osteochondral lesions of the ankle include prolonged pain (after the sprain has healed), swelling, and clicking or popping of the joint. The affected joint usually feels fine at rest and is painful during activity. A common complaint is a dull achy pain that is felt in the ankle joint.
Osteochondral lesions are diagnosed by physical examinations and imaging, such as an X-ray, MRI, or a CT scan. These imaging techniques are important to understand the extent of the damage on the articular cartilage. Once the scan is completed your podiatrist can recommend proper treatment. Rest and wearing a brace or cast may help but surgery is typically needed in the adult population to cure the lesion. The extent of the damage always plays a role in the outcome; however, in many surgical cases a pain free joint is obtained.
Ankle injuries are common among all ages. Don’t let prolonged pain go unattended and unchecked. If you notice any changes in your foot health, please consider making an appointment with Dr. Jay C. Larson at Sole Foot and Ankle Specialists in Glendale, Arizona.