The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

No, No Charcot Foot

Posted by on Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

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Any injury or problem with your feet is bad, mostly because these make it difficult to stand and walk, two of the things that are at the heart of being human. Mix pain with immobility, and a foot injury just means pure misery.Some foot problems are worse than others, of course. Athlete’s foot is disgusting, but it can be dealt with fairly easily. A little broken toe can have a big effect on walking, but it will heal.

Charcot foot, on the other hand, is a very serious condition, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

First, a bit of history–Jean-Martin Charcot was a 19th century French physician who is considered one of the pioneers of neurology. His name is associated with about fifteen neurologically-related conditions; he also was a leader in identifying and describing diseases such as multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

What is Charcot foot? Charcot foot is a condition where bones in the foot weaken until they fracture; continued walking may lead to joint collapse in the foot, causing the foot to become deformed. A person may develop Charcot foot in one or both of their feet.

What causes Charcot foot? This is a condition associated with people who have neuropathy, or severely damaged nerves in their feet. Since their sense of feeling is diminished, they’ll keep on walking on bones that are broken, making the problem worse and worse. Neuropathy often occurs in people who have diabetes; Charcot foot typically develops in people who have had diabetes for a long time, perhaps fifteen to twenty years.

How can you tell if you have Charcot foot? This is really tricky, and what makes Charcot’s foot so dangerous. Since the people in question lack sensation of the foot, they won’t notice that their foot is in pain. Instead. they need to look for:

  • A warm sensation when they touch the foot
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Instability when walking
  • Deformity of the foot in advanced cases

People who have diabetes should be on the alert for foot problems. If they have any cause to believe there is trouble with with their feet, such as Charcot foot, they should contact a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) for a full exam and diagnosis. The earlier Charcot foot is caught, the better the prognosis. Untreated Charcot foot can lead to a number of complications, including ulcers, bone and joint inflammation, and blood and nerve compression.

What happens after Charcot foot is diagnosed? If Charcot foot is still in early stages, a podiatrist may put the foot in a cast or boot to immobilize it and let the bones heal. Once they have had a chance to heal, a podiatrist may recommend shoes with inserts to provide additional support to the foot or braces while the foot rebuilds strength.

In some cases, Charcot foot may require surgery. Depending on how advanced a patient’s Charcot foot is, surgery may involve simply removing cartilage and bone fragments and growths that occur from the fractures. If the arches have collapsed, a podiatric surgeon at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) can perform a midfoot realignment arthrodesis, where plates or screws are inserted to help stabilize and rebuild the arches. When Charcot foot is so advanced that a patient can no longer walk, even with braces, a podiatric surgeon may do a hindfoot and ankle realignment arthrodesis, where screws and plates are inserted to stabilize and realign other foot bones that have collapsed or become damage. All of these involve a recovery process where the patient wears a cast, followed by supportive shoes. After Charcot foot has healed, patients still need to keep an eye on their feet. For example, they should monitor how their feet react to different types of shoes or orthotics.

How can I avoid Charcot foot? Having diabetes is like having any kind of sensitivity–you need to keep monitoring your condition all the time, including your feet. Check your feet every day for any signs of abnormality, such as the aforementioned redness, swelling, or unusual warmth in your foot. Be aware of anything that could cause damage to your foot, even just bumping into something. If you suspect anything is wrong with your foot, contact a podiatrist immediately.

Diabetes brings many complications, with Charcot foot being just one of them. If you have diabetes, make sure you have a podiatrist you can rely on. If you have Charcot foot or any other foot issues, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.