If you have diabetes, poor circulation, or peripheral neuropathy in your feet and legs, you may already be aware that you’re at increased risk of developing many different kinds of injuries. One of the most severe, and often permanently life-changing, is Charcot foot.
This is an extremely serious foot deformity in which weakened bones in the feet crack, crumble, and change shape under continuous pressure. Severe Charcot foot often leads to an inability to walk normally, greatly increased risk of ulcers, and quite often amputation.
Early detection is critical if you want to save your foot, but the unfortunate truth is that the early warning signs may be hard to detect if you aren’t looking for them. That’s why proper understanding and prevention of this condition are so important if you are in a high-risk group.
What Is Charcot Foot?
Charcot foot is the result of bones literally breaking down and crumbling. The condition is strongly associated with severe peripheral neuropathy, usually related to diabetes.
People with diabetes and/or neuropathy also tend to have foot bones that are more prone to fracturing. And because severe neuropathy also can substantially reduce your ability to feel anything in your feet (pain or otherwise), you may not even realize that a potentially severe fracture has occurred.
Because you are unaware of the problem, you continue to walk on your broken foot—and that quickly leads to further breakdown of bone and tissue.
As the problem worsens, the foot structure itself may start to collapse and take on a “rocker bottom” appearance. Pressure spots emerge, ulcers become more common, and your ability to walk normally will be affected. Often, the end result of severe Charcot foot is amputation.
Identifying the Early Warning Signs and Symptoms
If you have diabetes and/or peripheral neuropathy, you should be carefully and thoroughly examining your feet and ankles at least once per day, as well as after periods of exercise and activity.
If you note any of the following, it could be an early indication of fractures that could lead to Charcot foot:
- Skin that is warm to the touch
- Noticeable pain or soreness, especially if your foot is typically almost totally numb
Again, it’s important not to rely on pain to be your warning sign, as your neuropathy may be so advanced that you don’t feel any pain at all.
Any of the above signs is a good reason to take the weight off your foot, give us a call, and talk about what you’re seeing. If you notice that your foot has already begun to change shape, it’s likely that extensive damage has already occurred and you need to see us as soon as possible.
Charcot Foot Treatment and Recovery
We take Charcot foot extremely seriously and will do everything we can to keep your foot from breaking down further, and keep you off the road to amputation.
Dr. Trent Timson will evaluate your feet closely. Our office is equipped with on-site X-ray and diagnostic ultrasound, which will allow us to take pictures of your foot and assess any internal damage that may have already occurred to the bones and soft tissues.
Once we understand the extent of the injury, we’ll make our recommendations for how to best protect and repair your foot.
Sometimes Charcot foot can be treated conservatively. Your foot will be immobilized using a cast or brace, and it will be important to avoid putting any weight on it. We’ll continue to evaluate you during your recovery, and as the bones continue to heal you will be able to progress to special shoes or a walking boot.
If severe damage or deformity has already occurred, however, surgical reconstruction of the foot is usually necessary. Screws and plates may be needed to hold the bones in place while they heal.
Whether your Charcot foot is treated conservative or surgically, it is possible you will need prescription shoes and/or bracing to enable a return to daily activities while reducing your risk of future injuries and ulcers as much as possible.
Stay On Top of Your Foot Health
Taking a few small preventative actions, and just a few minutes per day of checking your feet, can literally be the difference between a lifetime of good health or losing a foot to amputation.
If you have diabetes or neuropathy and you notice what could be the early warning signs of Charcot foot, leave nothing to chance. Call the Community Foot Clinic of McPherson for the evaluation and treatment options you require. You can reach us at (620) 241-3313, or request an appointment online.