What is Charcot Foot?
Charcot foot is a condition caused by weakening of the bones in the foot that can occur in people who have significant nerve damage (neuropathy). The bones are weakened enough to actually fracture, and with the continuation of walking and movement, the foot eventually alters its shape. As the disorder progresses, the joints collapse and foot takes on an abnormal shape.
This is a very serious condition that can lead to severe deformity, disability and even amputation. Because of its seriousness, it is important that patients who have neuropathic conditions – such as diabetes – take preventative measures and seek immediate attention if signs or symptoms start to appear.
Charcot foot develops as a result of neuropathy, which decreases the sensation of the foot and the ability to feel temperature, pain, or trauma. Because of the diminished sensation, the patient may continue to walk – making the injury worse. As such, people with neuropathic conditions (especially those with long standing diagnosis) are at risk for developing Charcot foot. Likewise, neuropathic patients with a tight Achilles tendon have been shown to have an increased tendency to develop Charcot foot.
Symptoms and Treatment Options
Symptoms of the disease include warmth to the touch of the affected area, redness accompanied with swelling, and/or pain and soreness of the foot area.
There are several non-surgical treatment options for those suffering from Charcot foot, consisting of:
– Immobilization either via a cast or brace, with the assistance of a wheelchair or crutches, to prevent damage of the weakened bone structure so that it can begin to repair itself.
– Custom shoes and braces with special inserts can be used to help the healed bones take on daily activities – as well as prevent a reoccurrence of the condition
– Activity modification to prevent a repeat of trauma to both the feet. A patient with Charcot in one foot is more likely to develop it in the other, so measure must be taken to protect both feet.
The patient can play a vital role in preventing Charcot foot and its complications by following these measures:
- Keeping blood sugar levels under control can help reduce the progression of nerve damage in the feet.
- Get regular check-ups from a foot specialist
- Check both feet every day—and see a foot specialist immediately if you notice signs of Charcot foot.
- Be careful to avoid injury, such as bumping the foot or overdoing an exercise program.