Joint effusion is a medical condition categorized by an abnormal accumulation of fluid in or around the joint. When the problem develops in the ankle, it’s referred to as ankle joint effusion. Below, we take a closer look at why the condition develops and how it can be treated with the help of a foot and ankle specialist.
Causes and Symptoms of Ankle Joint Effusion
Ankle joint effusion can come about for a number of different reasons, but typically there are three main causes – infection, acute injury or arthritis. It’s also important to note than joint effusion is different than edema. Edema is the general swelling of tissues caused by inflammation, whereas effusion is describes the actual swelling of the joint. Symptoms of the condition include:
Localized pain and inflammation
Inhibited range of motion
There may also be symptoms based on your root cause of effusion. Bleeding in the joint space is common with effusion caused by acute injury, while fever, chills and joint weakness often accompany infection-based effusion. When the condition is brought on with arthritis, progressive muscle loss may also occur.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Ankle Joint Effusion
If you’re dealing with pain and stiffness in your ankle joint, head to a foot specialist’s office. They’ll conduct a physical exam, review your medical charts and ask about your symptoms. Your doctor will get a good sense of what’s going on in the joint with the physical exam, but they may opt to get a clearer idea with the help of an imaging test like an ultrasound, x-ray, CT scan or MRI depending on what the doctor believes is the underlying cause of the effusion.
Standard treatment for ankle joint effusion beings with RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) along with anti-inflammatory medications, and then additional treatments based on the underlying cause of effusion. For patients whose condition is caused by an infection, antibiotics or intravenous medications may help. Providing a good healing environment and preventing additional joint degeneration is helpful for trauma- and arthritis-based effusion.
Surgery is typically reserved for serious joint injuries or those joints that have severely been damaged by arthritis. In rare cases, an ankle joint replacement operation may be necessary. This surgery has high success rates, but it’s rare that it would become necessary because other management techniques typically provide relief.