What is Ankylosis and How to Treat It?
Ankylosis is a condition that causes stiffness and immobility of a joint due to abnormal fusion of the bones. It can affect any joint in the body, but it is more common in the spine, jaw, hip, knee, and elbow. Ankylosis can result from injury, infection, inflammation, or degeneration of the joint tissues. It can also be a complication of some diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, osteoarthritis, and noma.
Ankylosis can cause pain, deformity, disability, and reduced quality of life. Depending on the severity and location of the affected joint, it can interfere with daily activities such as eating, speaking, walking, and working. Ankylosis can also increase the risk of fractures and infections in the fused bones.
Causes of Ankylosis
Ankylosis can have different causes depending on the type and location of the joint involved. Some of the common causes are:
- Injury: Trauma to the joint can damage the cartilage, ligaments, tendons, or bones that allow smooth movement. This can lead to inflammation, scarring, and calcification of the joint tissues, resulting in ankylosis. Examples of injuries that can cause ankylosis are fractures, dislocations, sprains, and burns.
- Infection: Bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites can invade the joint and cause inflammation and pus formation. This can destroy the joint tissues and lead to ankylosis. Examples of infections that can cause ankylosis are tuberculosis, gonorrhea, syphilis, brucellosis, and leprosy.
- Inflammation: Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis can cause chronic inflammation of the joint tissues. This can lead to erosion of the cartilage and bone and formation of new bone tissue that fuses the joint. Examples of inflammatory diseases that can cause ankylosis are psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, gout, and sarcoidosis.
- Degeneration: Aging or overuse of the joint can cause wear and tear of the cartilage and bone. This can lead to osteoarthritis, which is characterized by loss of cartilage and formation of bone spurs that limit joint movement. Osteoarthritis can also cause ankylosis in some cases.
- Complication: Ankylosis can be a complication of some diseases or treatments that affect the joint tissues. For example, noma is a gangrenous disease that can cause ankylosis of the jaw by destroying the soft tissues and bones. Arthrodesis is a surgical procedure that intentionally creates ankylosis in a joint to relieve pain or improve stability.
Treatment of Ankylosis
The treatment of ankylosis depends on the cause, severity, location, and symptoms of the affected joint. Some of the possible treatments are:
- Medication: Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or corticosteroids can help reduce pain and inflammation in the joint. Antibiotics can help treat infections that cause ankylosis. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or biologic agents can help slow down or stop the progression of inflammatory diseases that cause ankylosis.
- Physical therapy: Exercises and stretches can help improve the range of motion and function of the joint. They can also help prevent muscle atrophy and contractures that can worsen ankylosis. Physical therapy may also include heat therapy, cold therapy, massage therapy, ultrasound therapy, or electrical stimulation to help relieve pain and inflammation in the joint.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be needed to restore movement and function of the joint. Surgery may involve removing scar tissue or bone spurs that block joint movement (arthrolysis), replacing the damaged joint with an artificial one (arthroplasty), or breaking and realigning