Charcot Foot: Extreme Diabetes at Work

Solid structures need solid foundations. You wouldn’t try to build a house on loose gravel or sand; it would collapse. You’d lay a concrete foundation first, and then build up from there. A formerly solid foundation that starts crumbling puts your house at risk, too. Your body faces a similar problem with diabetic foot complications. Issues like Charcot foot increase your risk for serious health problems, and possibly even the loss of your limb.

Foot Breakdown Is Real

Charcot foot is an extreme complication of diabetes and severe peripheral neuropathy. Fluctuating and generally high blood sugar levels have serious effects all throughout the body. They weaken bones, impair blood flow, and deaden nerves. Over time, this creates problems. You aren’t able to feel injuries to your feet well, if at all. Slowed circulation means your limbs don’t heal completely when they do get hurt, allowing the problem to worsen as you walk on it. Weak bones are far more likely to break down under repetitive pressure, especially if they don’t heal properly and you are unable to feel them.

All of these factors together leads to Charcot foot. The arch of your foot begins to collapse, often without you noticing. You could potentially develop a severe deformity that makes walking difficult, if not impossible. The broken-down limb is also far more susceptible to foot ulcers and infections. This makes the condition a potentially life-threatening problem for someone who is living with diabetes. If not caught soon enough, you may need an amputation to stop the spread of an infection.

Hidden Symptoms

Because this only occurs when your nerves are highly impaired, you may not experience much, or any, pain as your foot collapses. Charcot does have a few other symptoms, however. Usually your whole foot will be swollen and red and feel quite warm to the touch. Typically this all happens without an obvious injury tied to it. Over time, your foot may appear more deformed or develop a rocker-bottom appearance. You might be more prone to ulcers as well.

What You Can Do About It

You need immediate treatment if you want to avoid an amputation. Dr. Brandon S. Percival, Dr. Julie A. Percival, and Dr. William Harris will need to carefully examine your foot to accurately diagnose the condition. Our staff will probably need to use diagnostic images to get an idea of the extent of the problem, too. Then we can help you approach the problem with the best possible treatments.

If the problem is caught early, conservative care might be enough to handle the problem. Your foot will have to be immobilized in a non-weight bearing cast. That way the bones are allowed to heal without pressure from your bodyweight breaking them down further. Once the foot has recovered, you will have to wear special shoes or braces that support your fragile midfoot. Most likely you’ll need to change your activities to limit hard impacts.

More severe cases of Charcot foot have to be surgically corrected to put the bones back in their proper places and hold them there. After the foot has been reconstructed, you will spend some time healing in a cast. You might need physical therapy to be able to walk. Once again, you likely will need to wear special shoes or braces to keep your healed feet supported and prevent the problem from recurring.

Charcot foot is a serious diabetic foot complication that can change your whole life for the worse if you let it. You don’t have to resign yourself to an amputation, though. Let Carolina Podiatry Group help you restore your lower limbs. Contact our South Carolina offices right away for an appointment. Call (803) 285-1411 for our Lancaster office, or (803) 548-FEET for our Indian Land location.