What Is Charcot Foot?
Charcot foot is a condition causing weakening of the bones in the foot that can occur in people who have significant nerve damage (neuropathy). The bones are weakened enough to fracture, and with continued walking, the foot eventually changes shape. As the disorder progresses, the joints collapse and the foot takes on an abnormal shape, such as a rocker-bottom appearance.
Charcot foot is a serious condition that can lead to severe deformity, disability and even amputation. Because of its seriousness, it is important that patients living with diabetes—a disease often associated with neuropathy—take preventive measures and seek immediate care if signs or symptoms appear.
Charcot foot develops as a result of neuropathy, which decreases sensation and the ability to feel temperature, pain or trauma. Because of diminished sensation, the patient may continue to walk—making the injury worse. People with neuropathy (especially those who have had it for a long time) are at risk for developing Charcot foot. In addition, neuropathic patients with a tight Achilles tendon have been shown to have a tendency to develop Charcot foot.
The symptoms of Charcot foot may include:
Early diagnosis of Charcot foot is extremely important for successful treatment. To arrive at a diagnosis, the surgeon will examine the foot and ankle and ask about events that may have occurred prior to the symptoms. X-rays and other imaging studies and tests may be ordered. Once treatment begins, x-rays are taken periodically to aid in evaluating the status of the condition.
It is extremely important to follow the surgeon’s treatment plan for Charcot foot. Failure to do so can lead to the loss of a toe, foot, leg or life.
Nonsurgical treatment for Charcot foot consists of:
In some cases, the Charcot deformity may become severe enough that surgery is necessary. The foot and ankle surgeon will determine the proper timing as well as the appropriate procedure for the individual case.
Preventive CareThe patient can play a vital role in preventing Charcot foot and its complications by following these measures: