Swelling and bone friction make the ankle stiff and less flexible. The ankle’s range of motion can become more limited, making it difficult to point and flex the toes. Ankles can become stiff after prolonged inactivity. People with ankle osteoarthritis may find that stiffness and pain are most noticeable when they try to get out of bed in the morning or out of a chair after a long period of sitting.
When ankle cartilage wears away, the fibula, tibia and talus bones can rub together, resulting in irritation and swelling of the ankle. Sensing a crunching or hearing a popping or squeaking sound when pointing or flexing the toes is a sign that that cartilage has worn away and is not protecting the bones from friction. The medical term for this symptom is crepitus.
In most but not all cases, the symptoms of ankle osteoarthritis come and go, becoming worse and more frequent over months or years. Left untreated, ankle arthritis has the potential to severely impede mobility.
On the other hand, getting treatment in the early stages of arthritis can significantly slow the progression of symptoms.