What is Ankle Joint Abscess?

Ankle joint abscess is a development of tender mass filled with pus around the human ankle region with pink or reddish appearance. The ankle joint abscess requires more than just the antibiotics and usually needs to be opened forcefully by a surgeon to let the pus drain out through incision and drainage (I&D) procedure.

What is Ankle Joint Abscess?

Causes of Ankle Joint Abscess

Ankle joint abscess occurs when germs enter into the body through an exposed sweat glands of the ankle. It triggers the inflammatory response by the body as a defence mechanism. It gradually turns loose with lot of pus, bacteria and dead cells continues to grow leading to inflammation and pain. Usually individuals having weaker immunity are more prone to formation of ankle joint abscess. The causes of ankle joint abscess may include:

  • Usage of steroid therapy for a long time may cause ankle joint abscess.
  • Ulcerative colitis.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • Leukemia.
  • Cancer.
  • Disorder related to peripheral vascular.
  • Sickle cell disease.
  • Crohn's disease.
  • AIDS.
  • Another cause of ankle joint abscess is diabetes.
  • Alcoholism or IV drug abuse is also a cause of ankle joint abscess.
  • Severe trauma.
  • Severe burns.

Poor hygiene, skin infections, exposure to unhealthy environment etc can also make you more prone to ankle joint abscess.

Signs and Symptoms of Ankle Joint Abscess

Ankle joint abscess gradually starts to liquefy with reddish appearance that feels warm when touched. It continues to grow putting pressure on the outer skin and ruptures. It is necessary to take proper care to ensure that the infection does not spread to deeper tissues of the human skin which can lead to severe consequences such as fever and get into the blood stream. It is strongly recommended to see your doctor in case of any type of skin infection at ankle including:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Any signs of drainage
  • Redness

Also be careful about and development of any new symptoms while undergoing treatment for ankle joint abscess is in progress and make sure to report it immediately.

Risk Factors for Ankle Joint Abscess

There are some conditions that can increase the risk of developing ankle joint abscess, such as:

  • Weak Immunity that can be result if you are suffering from HIV or undergoing some treatment like as chemotherapy can make your more prone to ankle joint abscess.
  • Diabetes.
  • Any pre-existing inflammatory condition in body like hidradenitis suppurativa.
  • Presence of staphylococcal bacteria in the body.

However, ankle joint abscess can occur to anyone even of you are perfectly healthy without any risk factors.

Complications in Ankle Joint Abscess

Various complications that can result if you do not take proper care of ankle joint abscess including:

  • Infection spreading to adjacent tissues is a complication of ankle joint abscess.
  • Another complication of ankle joint abscess is infection reaching down to deeper cells and spreading to other parts of the body through blood.
  • Dying of tissues (gangrene).

Tests to Diagnose Ankle Joint Abscess

A physical is crucial in diagnosing ankle joint abscess. Be prepared to answer one of more of the following questions while to visit your doctor.

  • When did you first noticed any signs of ankle joint abscess?
  • Did you have any injury in your ankle?
  • Are you taking any medicines?
  • Do you have any type of allergy?
  • Do you recall having fever in the recent past?

Your doctor will carry out a simple physical examination of the ankle effected with ankle joint abscess to assess the condition. He will also examine your feet.

Treatment for Ankle Joint Abscess

Treatment for Ankle Joint Abscess

Treatment for ankle joint abscess usually involves creating a cut to let the pus drain out. It is done with utmost care by using local anaesthesia to ensure that you do not feel any pain. Sometimes, sedatives may also be required if the ankle joint abscess has grown too large. After the pus is completely drained out, it is covered with sterile cloth and antiseptic solution to avoid any infection. The cavity left behind after treatment is filled with packaging to minimize bleeding and is left for a couple of days. You will need to take care of dressing regularly at home after the treatment. In most of the cases, people can get relief from pain and infection. However, if you still feel any pain; doctor can provide you some pain relief medicines.

Follow-up for Ankle Joint Abscess

It is important to follow all the instructions carefully provided by your doctor.

  • Sometimes, doctor may allow you to remove your bandage and packaging on your own at home with some clear instructions about flushing and soaking.
  • Make sure you do not miss any appointments post treatment for ankle joint abscess.
  • Let your doctor know about any symptoms of swelling, fever or increased pain in the ankle region.

Home Remedies for Ankle Joint Abscess

You can make use of a simple home remedy to manage simple or small ankle joint abscess.

  • You can apply a warm compress at home for 30-40 minutes 4 times in a day, if the ankle joint abscess is smaller than half inch or 1 cm.
  • Avoid forcing abscess to drain out the pus as it may cause infection to spread deeper or to adjacent tissues.
  • Avoid using any sharp tool like needle to create a cut at home as it can cause damage to adjacent tissues and make infection severe.

Recovery Period/Healing Time for Ankle Joint Abscess

The recovery period/healing time of a big ankle joint abscess is not fixed and varies from one individual to another as it depends on intensity of problem and type of treatment adopted. Thus, you must refer to your doctor to know about the precise recovery period or any questions about reoccurrence.

Prevention of Ankle Joint Abscess

Make sure to clean your skin regularly with soap and water and maintain good hygienic conditions. Bacteria causing abscess usually enters through a minor wound or exposed sweat gland. Thus it is necessary to keep your skin free for bacteria to minimize the risk of developing ankle joint abscess.

The prevention of spreading of bacteria can be minimized by :

  • Keeping your legs clean by washing them with soap regularly.
  • Keeping your towel separate.
  • Avoiding use of communal equipment including saunas, gym, swimming pool etc… until your abscess is healed completely.

Avoid trying to force the pus out of ankle joint abscess as it can cause the infection to spread to adjacent tissues or deeper blood vessels. Any tissue papers or cloth used for wiping out the pus must be carefully disposed immediately to ensure that the bacteria does not spread. Also make sure you wash your hands every time you touch the abscess.

In case of any wound, make sure you clean it nicely. In case you feel that something is stuck inside, contact local NHS walk-in centre or General Physician immediately.
You can further minimize the risk of developing ankle joint abscess by following the tips below:

  • Following a healthy diet and maintaining a good healthy.
  • Exercising and keeping weight under control.
  • Avoiding smoking.

Prognosis/Outlook for Ankle Joint Abscess

Usually, ankle joint abscess heals out without any complications after treatment and the prognosis is excellent.

  • Antibiotics are not necessary in all cases of ankle joint abscess treatment, unless the abscess is huge.
  • Treatment would usually relief you from intense pain that continues to get better with each passing day.
  • You would need to take care of the abscess even after treatment with things like soaking, wound repacking, bandaging etc for the post 7-10 days.
  • The drainage of ankle joint abscess must stop or become negligible after a couple of days from treatment and wound should heal in the next 10-14 days.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: September 22, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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