When your foot falls asleep and you poke it, are you able to feel anything? Until your foot “wakes up,” generally you cannot. If you were to accidentally injury yourself while your foot was still numb, odds are you wouldn’t feel that, either — at least, not until later! If your foot never regained all of its feeling, however, you might never notice it had a problem at all.
This is the danger that faces people with diabetes. Neuropathy in their feet can lead to small injuries becoming big ones, simply because they couldn’t feel them. If the damage becomes serious, it could even lead to Charcot foot.
Charcot foot is the breakdown of the foot bones from neuropathy. The fluctuating sugar levels in diabetes harm many structures in your body, including your nerves. In your feet, this means you could incur an injury to major support structures like your bones and never notice. You would continue walking on the problem, making it far worse without realizing it. Over time, however, the compounded damage would lead to the collapse and deformity of the bones. If you continue to walk on a foot that has completely broken down, your skin will develop ulcers and open the body to infection. Severe complications from the condition could require amputation to prevent the infections from becoming life-threatening.
You may not experience much pain because of the nerve damage that allowed the injury to develop in the first place. However, your foot will visibly change. It will swell up, even if you haven’t noticed an obvious injury. The outside of the foot may become red and seem irritated. Sometimes the skin will feel warm to the touch. If the bones have already broken down considerably, you would notice the shape of your foot changing.
In order to prevent amputation, you need to have Charcot foot examined and treated immediately. If you notice visible changes in the shape or structure of one or both of your feet, contact Community Foot Clinic of McPherson right away. Dr. Trent Timson will evaluate your feet and may request diagnostic images to be able to see the damage to the structures. Once the extent of the injury is known, he can work with you to determine the best treatment to repair and protect your foot.
Sometimes the condition can be treated conservatively, using a cast or braces. Your foot will be immobilized and you will not be able use it to bear weight while the fragile bones repair themselves, since continued pressure could collapse them further. Once Dr. Trent Timson has determined your feet have healed enough, you may be prescribed special shoes or a boot to continue to support the foot.
If the damage to your bones is severe, you may need surgery to repair them. Multiple procedures exist, depending on what fits your needs, but often screws and metal plates are used to hold the bones in their proper places. Casts and braces immobilize and maintain the foot’s position as it heals following the surgery. Once your foot has healed, you may still need prescription shoes to support your foot and prevent ulcer development.