Charcot Foot – Unseen Signs

As begrudgingly as we may wish to admit it, pain plays an important role in our lives. It often tells us when something is wrong and that something needs to change—quickly! If you live with neuropathy due to diabetes or other complications, however, you may not be able to feel pain in your feet as you once did. With these signals weak or absent, problems can continue to exist unnoticed and grow progressively worse, leading to a serious condition known as Charcot foot.

Cutting the Alarm

Foot SilhouetteNormally, when injury occurs, the resulting pain frequently causes a response that makes the sufferer bear less weight on the affected extremity, reducing the risk of further damage and increasing the foot’s opportunity to heal. Charcot foot can occur when an injury such as a fracture or sprain is not felt and the foot or ankle continues to be used as usual. This causes bones and joints to further weaken over time, resulting in additional fractures and dislocations. Ultimately, the foot or ankle can become deformed and, in some severe cases, amputation may be necessary.

When one method of detecting Charcot is weakened, other means become essential to discovering the condition early. If you live with diabetes, inspect your feet regularly for signs of damage or abnormality. Symptoms of Charcot can include swelling and redness in the foot, sometimes without any clear injury. The affected foot may also feel warmer to the touch than the other foot. If there is pain, it may come in the form of a soreness or deep ache.  

Assembling a Response

The sooner Charcot foot is noticed and diagnosed, the better the odds that it can be successfully treated. A full examination of the foot and ankle will be performed, and you will also likely be asked for a recent history of activities and events to help narrow down what might have caused your initial injury. An X-ray, MRI, or other imaging exam might also be ordered.

Different non-surgical treatments may be recommended if the condition has not progressed too far. Fitting a cast, boot, or brace to the foot will help reduce swelling and protect the fragile bones long enough to allow them a chance to heal. A wheelchair or crutches might also be needed to keep further weight off the foot. Once a certain point of healing has been reached, custom shoes or bracing might then be prescribed.

Surgery may be recommended if non-surgical methods don’t work, the patient’s foot is deformed in a dangerous way, or any fractures or dislocations are severe and loose enough to require it. Procedures will vary depending on the specific type of damage, but could involve bone removal, realignment, or fusion.

When living with diabetes and neuropathy, vigilance is key. Inspect your feet daily for signs of trouble and make healthy choices to reduce your risk of injury. Whether a concern has arisen or you want a partner to help you watch over your foot health, Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen and the team are here for you. Schedule an appointment with our Castle Pines or Parker offices by calling (303) 805-5156.

Photo Credit: How Soon Ngu via unsplash.com

Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen, DPM
Founder and Owner of Podiatry Associates, PC