What is Charcot Foot?
Charcot foot is a serious complication that impacts the bones, joints, and soft tissues of the foot and/or ankle. It typically results from nerve damage in the feet due to diabetes or nerve injuries. Those with diabetes mellitus are particularly prone to the condition. The bones become weak and can break and the joints in the foot or ankle can dislocate. If not caught in early stages, the joints can collapse, and the foot eventually becomes deformed. This can cause pressure sores to develop in the foot and/or ankle which can eventually lead to an infection and amputation.
When the midfoot is impacted in Charcot foot, the arch collapses, and the bottom of the foot rounds. This is called a rocker-bottom foot deformity. Depending on the location of the fracture, the toes can also begin to curve, or the ankle can become deformed and unstable.
Charcot Foot – Symptoms
Knowing the signs of Charcot foot is essential for early treatment.
- Red appearance of foot and/or ankle
- Foot feels warm to the touch
- Swelling of the extremity
Causes of Charcot Foot
Researchers have not found one, single cause of Charcot foot but most commonly, it is a result of neuropathy. This condition can make Charcot foot more severe through unnoticed and untreated injuries. Because the patient cannot feel pain or other sensations, an injury can be made worse by continued walking. Furthermore, blood vessel damage can change the blood flow to the feet, leading to bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
Less commonly, Charcot foot has also been seen as a complication of organ transplantations in diabetic patients. The drugs used to prevent organ rejection may cause bone loss and fractures.
How is Charcot foot diagnosed?
Charcot foot is diagnosed through examination of the foot and ankle and alignment with its known symptoms: a red, hot, swollen foot and an increased skin temperature in the affected area. X-rays, other imaging, and tests may be ordered to further evaluate the condition.
How is Charcot foot treated?
Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent or lessen the potential damage of Charcot foot. We recommend you see a Podiatrist immediately if you notice any symptoms related to Charcot foot.
- Custom orthotics
- Activity reduction or modification
Surgery is recommended for patients who have severe ankle and foot deformities and who are at high risk of developing a foot ulcer. Your physician may consider limb salvage surgery, or limb sparing surgery, to prevent amputation.
Dr. Glazer is an expert in the field of limb salvage. He not only frequently performs the procedure but is a surgeon trainer and lectures frequently on the topic.
Charcot Foot – Preventative Care
Charcot foot can be avoided by following the measures outlined below:
- Maintain blood sugar levels to help slow nerve damage progression
- Do your best to avoid injury and overuse
- Schedule regular appointments with your foot and ankle surgeon
- Follow the physician’s treatment plan
- See a physician immediately if you notice the symptoms of Charcot foot