Charcot Foot

Charcot foot is a rare but serious complication that impacts the bones, joints, and soft tissue in your foot or ankle.
Charcot Foot

Charcot Foot

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Charcot Foot Overview

Charcot foot is a rare but serious complication that impacts the bones, joints, and soft tissue in your foot and ankle. It is typically the result of nerve damage and can cause the foot to be deformed. This deformity could lead to ulceration, infection, and amputation. Oftentimes, Charcot foot isn’t associated with any pain, so it’s imperative that you are on top of your foot health. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent or lessen any potential damage or the need for limb salvage.

Know the Symptoms of Charcot Foot

Symptoms of Charcot foot include:

  • A red appearance of the foot/ankle
  • Swelling
  • Increased warmth compared to the other foot/ankle
  • Foot feels warm to the touch
  • Soreness

To best prevent Charcot foot from going unnoticed, it’s important to check your feet daily for changes and have regular appointments scheduled with your board-certified podiatrist. You should also always wear shoes and socks, even when you are indoors.

Causes of Charcot Foot

Charcot foot is the result of bone or joint damage. It can begin with peripheral neuropathy, a disease of the nerves. As the nerves are impacted, Charcot foot isn’t often associated with pain as the patient may not sense sensations in their foot.
Another cause of Charcot foot is as a result of minor fractures. When repeated small fractures aren’t felt or don’t heal correctly, the fractures can worsen and Charcot foot can develop.

Diabetics are more likely to suffer from Charcot foot due to diabetes-related neuropathy.

Who is Most at Risk?

Diabetics are most at risk for developing Charcot foot, especially those who have had diabetes for several years.

Other risk factors include those who:

  • Regularly smoke
  • Regularly consume alcohol
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have high cholesterol
  • Suffer from kidney disease
  • Are overweight

Diagnosing Charcot Foot

Early diagnosis is crucial to prevent joints from collapsing and deforming the foot. Your board-certified podiatrist will examine your foot and ankle and ask about your symptoms. They may also take the temperature of your feet, as a higher temperature can be a sign of Charcot foot. X-rays and other tests may be used to diagnosis your condition. In some cases, a bone biopsy may be ordered to check for infection.

Treatment Options

There are both non-surgical and surgical treatment options, depending on the severity of Charcot foot.

Nonsurgical Treatment Options

Decreasing pressure to your feet is one of the most important ways to heal Charcot foot. This protects the weakened bones from further damage. During this time, the doctor may have the patient wear a cast, boot, or brace. You may need a knee scooter or crutches. Your doctor may also prescribe special devices or footwear. Custom orthotics and bracing can help the bones heal and prevent recurrence of Charcot foot.

Surgical Treatment Options

If a case of Charcot foot has caused a severe deformity or if an infection has spread, surgery may be necessary. A board-certified surgeon will repair the damage and stabilize your foot. The details of surgery will depend on each individual case of Charcot foot. The goal of surgery is to provide the patient with a stable foot that will not develop further ulcerations.

What happens if Charcot Foot isn’t Treated?

If Charcot foot isn’t caught early, the joints or arch in the foot can collapse, causing the foot to become deformed. It also may permanently affect the patient’s ability to use their foot.

Without an early diagnosis, Charcot foot may also cause a foot infection. In severe cases, failure to get treatment can result in the loss of a toe, foot, or leg. The longer Charcot foot is left untreated, the damage becomes worse and the chance of requiring amputation increase.

Contact your board-certified podiatrist if you have any symptoms of Charcot foot!

Prevention Tips

The best prevention method is to have regular check-ups with your board-certified podiatrist and regularly examine your feet. If you feel any loss or change in your ability to feel sensations, call our office!

Other helpful tips include:

  • Manage your blood sugar levels to slow any potential nerve damage.
  • Wear shoes and socks, even when you’re indoors.
  • Get fit for custom orthotics.
  • Stop any activity that is causing foot or ankle pain.
  • Maintain blood flow to your feet by wiggling your toes often and elevating your feet.
  • See your podiatrist at least once per year if you have neuropathy or diabetes

While Charcot foot is rare, it’s important to be on the lookout for its symptoms! If you have any questions, ask your healthcare provider.


No. Surgery is only needed in severe cases. Most often, Charcot foot is treated by keeping weight off your foot, using special devices (wheelchair, crutches, walker, or brace) to keep weight off your foot, or custom footwear.
Diabetics are most often the ones who develop Charcot foot due to diabetes-related neuropathy, which affects their ability to feel sensations in their feet.
Charcot foot usually has the following symptoms: A red appearance of the foot or ankle, the foot feeling warm to the touch, swelling, or soreness. This stage of Charcot can last up to three months.