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Achilles Tendon Rupture

The Achilles tendon, a strong fibrous cord present behind the ankle, is the largest tendon in the body. It connects the calf muscles to your heel bone and is used whenever you walk, jump and run. The Achilles tendon may be susceptible to injury and damage when it becomes thin and weak or from overuse. Chronic ruptures of Achilles tendon are those that present for evaluation 4-6 weeks after the original injury. Achilles tendon rupture affects 1 in 5000 people and occurs most commonly between the ages of 30-50 years.

Causes

Achilles tendon rupture generally occurs in middle-aged athletes or in elderly people due to thin and weak tendons. Sports such as tennis, basketball, and badminton which involve running and jumping can cause excessive stress on the Achilles tendon. This eventually leads to injury or rupture. Achilles tendon rupture can also be caused due to injuries from a fall. People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, gout and systemic lupus erythematosus or who have consumed corticosteroid medications for long-term often have weak tendons and are more prone to Achilles tendon rupture.

Symptoms

If you have an Achilles tendon rupture you may experience intense pain in the back of your leg; swelling of the calf muscles; bruising; difficulty to run, walk, stand or climb stairs and stiffness.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will perform a physical examination and observe your walking manner and assess for any swelling at the back of the leg. You may be asked to get an ultrasound scan or MRI done to obtain a clear picture of the injury.

Treatment

The management of chronic ruptures is mostly treated by surgical method.

The surgeon makes a small cut on the affected area and exposes the tendon. The torn ends of the Achilles tendon are held together with the help of screws and/or plates. Tendon grafts are rarely used, but may be indicated. The incision is sutured firmly and a plaster cast may be applied after the surgery. Physiotherapy will be advised to facilitate movement of the leg during the healing process.

Prevention

The following tips are recommended to prevent an Achilles tendon rupture:

  • Avoid activities that cause excess stress on the heel
  • Wearing proper shoes
  • Warm up with stretching before any activity

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