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What is a Broken Ankle?

Broken Ankle

Ankle breaks are a bone injury that can come from a variety of sources. The treatment of your specific broken ankle requires medical supervision to account for the differences in fractures and locations. You could be looking at anything from immobilization for a few months to surgery as part of your recovery.

Symptoms

The symptoms of a broken ankle are relatively easy to recognize. When you break an ankle, you experience immediate pain. This pain then tends to rise when you walk on it and fall when you rest the ankle. This pain can lead to difficulty walking or putting weight on the ankle. A bad break also means the ankle cannot support weight.

You will also likely encounter localized tenderness, bruising, and swelling in your ankle. If the break is severe, you will also see visible deformity in your ankle, such as bone distending your skin.

Seek immediate medical aid for these symptoms.

Causes

Breaking your ankle does not occur in one specific circumstance. There are innocuous causes such as missteps or falls which apply significant force to the ankle. There are also more severe causes, such as car accidents or sports injuries. The latter is more likely to require surgical intervention, though surgery can become necessary regardless of your initial injury cause.

Complications

There are potential long-term complications anytime you break a bone. The ankle is a major joint and bears your weight. This stress means your complications, especially if left untreated, can be severe. Your doctor should evaluate you for each complication risk.

Arthritis is a common outcome once a joint breaks. Generally, arthritis does not turn up for years. Over time, arthritis affects how joints move.

Bone infection may occur if your ankle break goes through your skin. Since this tends to be a more severe fracture, this complication is rarer. Your doctor should take measures if your bones are outside your skin.

Compartment syndrome creates pressure when body space is limited. This syndrome is rare with ankle fractures since it usually requires something to impede blood flow in a specific area. However, untreated compartment syndrome can result in permanent disability.

Nerve or blood vessel damage is also a possible complication with any size break. The symptoms include numbness and circulation problems. If this damage is left untreated, your bones can die.

Risk Factors and Mitigation

There are many risk factors for ankle breaks which can be mitigated. For example, your participation in high impact activities such as sports or running puts you at risk. To reduce these risks, wear proper gear. This includes replacing your shoes as soon as they wear out.

In a similar vein, sudden increases or changes to your activity is also a risk. The supporting muscles and bones do not respond to these sudden changes. This lack of support puts you at risk for stress fractures. Consider starting slowly and doing some cross-training to aid in the transition.

Another factor is medical and work-related risk. For example, if you have osteoporosis, your bones are not as strong. If you choose to be more aware of the risk, then you will be less likely to put yourself in potentially ankle-breaking situations. Certain professions, like construction, also present a higher risk to you.

Tripping often leads to missteps. If you can, consider decluttering so that there is less for you to trip over. Even deciding to walk in better light can help mitigate the risks of you breaking an ankle in your own home.

This post is not a substitute for your medical team. Please seek immediate medical help for ongoing symptoms.

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