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What causes ankle pain? 17 possible conditions

Ankle pain refers to any type of pain or discomfort in your ankles. This pain could be caused by an injury, like a sprain, or by a medical condition, such as arthritis. Read more

When to See a Doctor About Ankle Pain

You should visit your nearest emergency room or call 911 if:

  • you cannot put any weight on your ankle and the joint looks visibly disfigured — this might mean your ankle is broken
  • you have intense pain even when you are not moving or putting weight on your ankle
  • your ankle makes a popping sound when you try to move it

In some cases, you will need to visit your doctor due to your ankle pain. You should check in with your doctor if your pain does not go away after a few weeks, or if the swelling in your ankle does not go down in two to three days.

You will also need to see your doctor if you develop an infection in your ankle. Signs of an infection include an ankle that becomes warm, tender, and red, or a fever that is over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your doctor may order an X-ray of your ankle. In some cases, he or she will remove fluid from the joint using a needle. You may be given nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, braces, or other special protective gear. In severe cases, ankle pain may require surgery.

Long-Term Outlook for Ankle Pain

A sprained ankle will often heal on its own if you follow the RICE method. However, a sprained ankle is weakened and more likely to be sprained again. A severe sprain may require surgery. An infection may require medication.

Osteoarthritis is considered a chronic condition. Septic arthritis can be chronic as well. Nothing can completely eliminate the ankle pain associated with arthritis or keep it from returning. However, you can talk to your doctor about treatment options and home remedies to help you deal with your condition.

Preventing Ankle Pain

Pain caused by medical conditions, such as arthritis, cannot be prevented. Still, you can do the following to avoid sprains, and other lifestyle-related injuries to your ankles:

  • wear shoes that fit well and provide ample ankle support
  • avoid wearing high-heeled shoes
  • stretch your ankles and legs before exercising
  • wear ankle support gear while doing activities that put strain on your ankles
  • lose weight if you are overweight to reduce the stress on your ankles

Poor balance is another well-established risk factor for ankle injury. A review from BioMed Research International details research from the last 30 years, which has found that people with poor balance may be two to four times as likely to experience ankle injuries compared to those with normal balance. Consider practicing some simple balancing exercises to improve your balance and prevent future ankle injuries. These can be as easy as standing on one leg without support.

See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.

1

Ankle Sprain

An ankle sprain is an injury to the ligaments in the ankle. Learn about ankle sprain causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Read more »

2

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when this cartilage (which provides a cushion for bones) wears away. It can occur in any joint in the body, but most commonly affects the knees, hips, spine, and hands.

Read more »

3

Sprains & Strains

Sprains and strains are injuries to the body, often resulting from physical activity. These injuries are common and can range from minor to severe, depending on the incident. Most don't require medical attention.

Read more »

4

Arthritis

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. Learn the basics and how your doctor might treat it.

Read more »

5

Tendinitis

Tendons are thick cords that join your muscles to your bones. When these tendons become irritated or inflamed, it is called tendinitis. This condition causes acute pain and tenderness, making it difficult to move th...

Read more »

6

Tendon Sheath Inflammation (Tenosynovitis)

Tendons are covered by a protective sheath called synovium, which keeps tendons lubricated. Injury to this area can disrupt this function, causing inflammation.

Read more »

7

Gout Overview

Gout is a type of arthritis caused by too much uric acid in the blood. When the concentration of uric acid gets too high, sharp urate crystals form and collect in the joints, causing swelling and intense pain.

Read more »

8

Standing Your Ground with Flat Feet (Pes Planus)

If you have flat feet, your feet don't have a normal arch when you're standing. This can cause pain when you do extensive physical activity.

Read more »

9

Fracture

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A fracture is a broken bone. Learn about the risk factors, symptoms, and treatments for different types of fracture.

Read more »

10

Dislocations

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Since a dislocation means your bone is no longer where it should be, you should treat it as an emergency and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Read more »

11

Bursitis

Bursae are fluid-filled sacs found about your joints. They surround the areas where tendons, skin, and muscle tissues meet bones. The lubrication they add helps reduce friction during movement.

Read more »

12

Rheumatoid Arthritis Overview

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It causes joint problems. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakes the body's own cells for invaders.

Read more »

13

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that primarily affects your spine. It causes severe inflammation of the vertebrae that might eventually lead to chronic pain and disability.

Read more »

14

Reactive Arthritis (Reiter's Syndrome)

Reactive arthritis is a type of arthritis triggered by an infection in the body.

Read more »

15

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most common type of arthritis in children. Learn about juvenile rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Read more »

16

Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is a complication of strep throat. If it's left untreated, it can cause permanent damage to your heart. Find out about symptoms and treatment.

Read more »

17

Kawasaki Disease

Early treatment is key to treating Kawasaki disease, especially in children. Learn how to recognize the symptoms of Kawasaki disease and when to see a doctor.

Read more »

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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