What Is Charcot Foot?
Charcot foot is the sudden softening of the bones in the foot, usually occurring in people with significant nerve damage. The bones are weakened to the point that they can fracture, and with continued walking, the shape of the foot will eventually change shape. As this gets worse, the arch becomes convex (like the bottom of a wheel or rocker) which makes it very hard to walk. Charcot foot is a very serious condition that can lead to deformity, disability, or even amputation. Because of this, it's important that patients with diabetes (often associated with neuropathy) take preventative measures and seek immediate care if the signs or symptoms of Charcot foot appear.
Signs and Symptoms of Charcot Foot
Symptoms of this disease can show up after sudden trauma (dropping something on the foot, or a sprain) or even a minor repetitive trauma, like talking a long walk. Symptoms include:
- Warmth to the touch
- Redness in the foot
- Swelling in the foot
- Pain or soreness
Symptoms of Charcot foot are similar to those of infection, but they are not the same. However, both are serious issues, and require immediate attention.
What Causes Charcot Foot?
Charcot foot starts as a result of neuropathy. Neuropathy decreases the sensation in your foot, and therefore the ability to feel temperature, pain, or trauma. This can become so severe that the patient may not feel anything in their feet at all. Because of this, the pain of an injury cannot be felt, and the patient continues to perform normal activities without treatment, making the injury worse.
Early diagnosis is incredibly important for successful treatment. The podiatrist will examine your foot and ankle and ask if there's been any contributing factors or events prior to the symptoms first appearance. X-rays will also be ordered, and in some cases, the doctor may order other imaging studies.