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Palm Beach Podiatry

Inflammation, Deformity, and Pain: Charcot Foot Explained

Although diabetes is classified as a blood disorder, complications of the disease can affect a wide range of bodily systems and functions. Many of these complications affect the feet and legs, making diabetic foot care an extremely high priority for diabetics and podiatrists alike.

A particularly nasty complication called Charcot foot is not only painful but also disfiguring and potentially fatal.

Charcot Foot Symptoms and Results

Charcot neuropathic osteoarthropathy, commonly referred to as Charcot foot, is a diabetic neuropathy condition that affects the bones, joints, and soft tissues of the foot and ankle.

Neuropathy (nerve damage) is common among diabetics as decreased blood flow causes nerves to break down. Unfortunately, when these nerves are damaged, sensitivity within the feet diminishes. This leads to the weakening of muscles and bones, and causes the person to continue walking on injuries, making them worse.

When the deteriorating muscles become too weak to support the now fragile bones, the bones can dislocate, fracture, and fail. When this happens, the entire foot becomes inflamed and the broken bones and joints collapse, causing the feet to change shape. This is known as Charcot foot, after Jean-Martin Charcot, the researcher who first wrote about the disorder in the 1860s.

Charcot foot can lead to serious foot problems such as:

  • Bone destruction. If the bones become too weak and fractured, any added pressure such as walking can cause them to chip and break further, to the point where resetting the broken bones would be impossible.
  • Subluxation. Excessive pressure applied to weakened bones and muscles can cause hairline fractures or partial dislocation of the bones.
  • Dislocation. Since neuropathy dulls the senses, a sprain could go unnoticed, causing the patient to continue putting pressure on a sprain until the joint completely dislocates, or other bones become dislodged.
  • Deformity. The most common type of deformity with Charcot foot is a midfoot collapse (known as “rocker-bottom” foot), where the inflammation is so great that it appears as if a ball has been placed under the foot’s arch. Not only is the inflammation painful, but it makes it nearly impossible to walk as the foot “rocks” back and forth.
  • Increased risk of peripheral artery disease and death. Excessive inflammation and fractured bone chips can cause the narrowing of blood vessels, decreasing blood flow, and compromising return blood flow to the heart.

Standing Tall

Early diagnosis of Charcot foot is essential for proper treatment and care. This is why it is extremely important to contact us immediately if you have predisposed conditions or are aware of any potential factors that may increase your chance for neuropathy and Charcot. Once we examine you and take detailed x-rays of your feet, we will be able to tell you whether the condition has set in. If it has begun, and your bones have begun to collapse, we will be able to start treatment as quickly as possible. If the bones have yet to collapse, then we can provide you with excellent preventative measures to stop the fall before it occurs.

Don’t take chances with your feet—they’re your support system. Make sure you support them as well. Contact us today to set up an appointment to get them checked. You’ll be glad that you did.