A Quick Overview of Charcot Foot for Diabetics

Posted on: 19 May 2016

People with diabetes can face problems with their feet due to two major complications of the disease: poor circulation and nerve damage. Charcot foot, more properly referred to as Charcot athropathy, is one of the most serious conditions that can occur as a result of these issues. Here's a quick overview of the condition.

What is Charcot Foot?

Charcot foot occurs in patients who have neuropathy, a decrease in your ability to feel pain, trauma, or temperature. Nerve damage causes this loss of sensation, which in turn increases the risk of your feet being injured. When injuries occur frequently, your feet's weight-bearing joints start to break down. This causes redness, an increase in foot temperature, and swelling, but it can go on to produce far more serious complications.

What Complications Can Be Caused by Charcot Foot?

Charcot foot will weaken the bones in the foot. Eventually, those bones will become weak enough to fracture. Since this may not be felt by the patient, they often continue to walk on the foot, causing it to change shape as they do so. As the condition progresses, the joints completely collapse, and the shape of the foot becomes abnormal.

This can lead to a noticeable deformity of the foot, often to the point where regular walking becomes impossible. If left untreated, it is possible that the foot in question will need to be amputated.

How Can Charcot Foot Be Treated?

Though Charcot foot can necessitate amputation, it is often treated less radically. Early diagnosis is critical, and it can be followed by non-surgical treatments, including:

  • Immobilization: The weakened bones are protected and weight-bearing activities are kept to a minimum. This may involve wearing a cast, medical boot, or brace, with some patients being required to use a wheelchair.
  • Custom Shoes: Special insets can be used after the bones have healed. They will let patients return to their daily activities while reducing the likelihood of a reoccurrence.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Shifts in a patient's activity levels can prevent excessive trauma from causing further damage.

How Can Charcot Foot Be Prevented?

People with diabetes can help prevent Charcot foot by keeping their blood sugar levels under control and avoiding excessive trauma or stress to the feet. It's also important to have regular check-ups with a podiatrist in order to make sure that any signs are recognised as early as possible.

Charcot foot can cause an ongoing disability or even the loss of a limb, so making sure you're properly educated about the condition is wise for anyone suffering from diabetes.