Charcot foot is a condition that can occur in people with neuropathy (nerve damage), and that is why it is a particular concern for diabetic patients. With neuropathy comes a weakening of the bones in the foot, which causes them to fracture easily, even without there being a noticeable trauma or injury. Since neuropathy causes a loss of feeling in the foot, the person doesn’t feel the pain of the fracture, and because they are unaware that a fracture has happened, continues to walk on it. Over time, this can lead to a severe deformity of the foot. It can become very disabling and even lead to amputation. At Great Neck Family Foot Care, we believe educating our patients about Charcot foot is key for prevention, early detection, and treatment.
Some signs that Charcot foot may be present include redness and swelling in the foot, pain or soreness, and warmth—(compare the affected foot to the other foot). Early diagnosis is critical for the successful treatment of Charcot foot. Our board certified foot surgeons, Dr. Alec Hochstein and Dr. Diana Gagliano will conduct a complete exam of the foot and ankle and ask questions about events and activities that led up to the symptoms. Digital x-rays and other imaging tests may be ordered and will continue periodically once treatment has begun to aid in evaluation of progress.
Your foot doctor will determine the best treatment plan for you. Due to the serious threat that Charcot foot poses to the health of your feet, it is very important to follow the doctor’s plan. Non-surgical treatments may include:
- Immobilization: In order to give weakened bones a chance to repair themselves and to prevent any further collapse of the foot, complete non-weightbearing is necessary. For the duration of the non-weightbearing period, the patient may be fitted with a cast, removable boot, or brace and may need to use a wheelchair or crutches.
- Custom shoes and bracing: Once the patient is able to return to daily, weightbearing activities, shoes with special inserts can help prevent recurrence of Charcot foot, as well as the development of ulcers. Bracing may also be required.
- Activity modification: Your doctor will help you set an activity level that will avoid repetitive trauma to your feet. If you have Charcot foot in one foot, it is more likely to develop in the other. The goal is to prevent and reoccurrence of Charcot.
In some cases, the Charcot deformity is so severe that surgery is necessary. Your podiatric surgeon is the one who would make that determination. At the first sign of any of the Charcot foot symptoms, please call our Great Neck office at 516-482-5999 to schedule an appointment with our doctors. An ongoing partnership between patient and doctor is the path to protection for our feet.