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What is Charcot Foot?
Charcot foot is a serious condition causing weakening of the bones in the foot, decreased sensation and the loss of ability to feel temperature, pain, or trauma.

Charcot foot is a serious condition causing weakening of the bones in the foot, decreased sensation and the loss of ability to feel temperature, pain, or trauma. Because of diminished sensation, individuals may continue to walk on the affected foot making the injury worse. Stress fractures may cause the tarsal bones to collapse, resulting in an outward bowing of the arch called “rocker foot”. Some patients develop ulcers and if left untreated could lead to deformity or amputation. The board certified podiatrists at Heel Pain Center of Atlanta , a specialty center of American Foot and Leg Specialists, can assess your risk factors and offer tips to prevent Charcot foot from forming.

Causes and Diagnosis

Neuropathy

Charcot foot can occur in people who have significant nerve damage  or neuropathy. Neuropathy is a disorder that occurs when nerves malfunction because they are damaged or destroyed. This disrupts the nerves’ normal functioning. They might send signals of pain when there is nothing causing pain, or they might not send a pain signal even if something is harming you. This can be caused by injury, systemic illness such as diabetes, infection, or may be associated with an inherited disorder. People who have a family history of peripheral neuropathy are more likely to develop the disorder; however, a variety of factors and underlying conditions may also cause this condition.

Diabetes

Although the condition has been around for centuries, it was not known until the early 1900’s that there was a direct link between Charcot foot and diabetes. The diabetic Charcot foot syndrome is a serious and potentially limb-threatening lower-extremity complication of diabetes. Now considered an inflammatory syndrome, the diabetic charcot foot is characterized by varying degrees of bone and joint disorganization secondary to underlying neuropathy, trauma, and perturbations of bone metabolism. For people with diabetes, careful, daily inspection of the feet is essential to overall health and the prevention of damaging foot problems.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Charcot foot include:

•   Dislocation of the joint;

•   Heat;

•   Insensitivity in the foot;

•   Instability of the joint;

•   Redness;

•   Strong pulse;

•   Swelling of the foot and ankle; and

•   Subluxation (misalignment of the bones that form a joint).

Prevention and Treatment

If you are at risk of developing Charcot foot, or already suffer from the condition, it is extremely important that you check your feet often for any of the signs listed above. Preventive care is the key to good overall health. A Podiatrist at Atlanta Heel Pain Center can consult with you to discuss your general health as well as any symptoms you may have, and develop a treatment plan. Failure to adhere to the treatment plan is extremely important the condition can lead to the loss of a toe, foot, leg, or life if untreated. Treatment for Charcot foot may consist of:

Immobilization. In the early stages of Charcot Foot, the foot and ankle are very fragile so they must be protected in order for the weakened bones and stress fractures to repair themselves. To keep the foot from further collapsing, complete non-weightbearing on the affected foot may be recommended. During this period, we may fit the patient with a cast, removable boot, or brace, and they may be required to use crutches or a wheelchair. It may take the bones several months to heal, although it can take considerably longer in some patients.

Custom Shoes and Bracing. Shoes with special inserts may be needed after the bones have healed to enable the patient to return to daily activities—as well as help prevent recurrence of Charcot foot, development of ulcers, and possibly amputation. In cases with significant deformity, bracing is also required. You may purchase custom shoes at any of our 4 locations as well as orthotics and other supplies from our Product Store.

Modification of Activity. A modification in activity level may be needed to avoid repetitive trauma to both feet. Measures must be taken to protect both feet because patients with Charcot in one foot are more likely to also develop the condition in the other foot.

In some cases, the Charcot deformity may become severe enough that surgery is necessary. Your Heel Pain Center of Atlanta doctor will determine the appropriate procedures for each individual case. We have four convenient locations to serve you including Stockbridge,  Fayetteville, Forest Park, and Locust Grove, Georgia.