What is Charcot foot?
Charcot foot is a progressive condition that affects the foot and ankle. Charcot foot attacks the bones, joints and soft tissues and can cause foot sores to form or the foot to change shape.
Outlook (Prognosis) for Charcot foot
Charcot foot causes the bones to weaken, which means they can break and slip out of place. The joints in the foot and ankle may dislocate and eventually collapse, leading to foot deformity. Sores on the foot may also become infected. In some cases, the affected foot may require amputation.
Charcot foot causes the bones to weaken.
Symptoms of Charcot foot
Symptoms can be difficult to detect at first, and the early signs of Charcot foot may resemble and be similar to problems and conditions affecting the feet, which means that an accurate diagnosis is essential in Charcot foot. Initial symptoms may appear as swelling and/or redness in the foot, the foot feels warm to the touch.
Medical tests to diagnose Charcot foot
X-rays and clinical tests may not find any signs or symptoms of Charcot foot. For an accurate diagnosis, a foot specialist will evaluate the symptoms and take an accurate medical history to determine if the symptoms indicate Charcot foot.
What are the causes of Charcot foot?
Although Charcot foot itself has no identifiable cause, it occurs largely in those with peripheral neuropathy. Charcot foot is a condition that affects the nerves in the feet and lower extremities and can cause a loss of sensation in the feet. This loss of sensation can mean that early signs of Charcot foot may be difficult to detect or go unnoticed.
Peripheral neuropathy is most commonly caused by diabetes, but can also be caused by Parkinson’s, HIV, spinal trauma, rheumatoid disease, psoriasis, or alcohol and drug abuse. Not all cases of peripheral neuropathy lead to Charcot foot, but some do.
Can Charcot foot be prevented?
If you have diabetes, regular checkups with a doctor are advised, but checkups with a doctor who specializes in foot problems or diabetic foot problems can also help take care of your feet. Wash your feet regularly and check them carefully, watching for signs of Charcot foot, such as swelling, redness and warmth.
Treatments for Charcot foot
Treatment for Charcot foot focuses on taking the stress off the affected foot, preventing the condition from developing further, and in some cases, performing surgery to repair the affected bones. To begin with, weight is kept off the foot by applying a cast, which protects the foot and prevents it from moving too much. The cast is usually worn for several months, during which time you will need to use a wheelchair or crutches to move around.
The specialist or doctor will monitor your progress during this time and change the cast, checking to see if the swelling has gone down. Once the cast has been removed, you will be advised on prescription footwear, which will fit correctly and be designed specifically for you. This will help relieve any pressure on the foot and protect it from future problems. In addition to prescription footwear, in some cases patients need orthotics.
In cases where the Charcot foot has caused severe deformities, surgery may be recommended. This option is taken only in cases where the foot is unstable and if no special prescription footwear or orthotics can be used. Surgery aims to realign the bones and make the foot more stable, as well as smooth out any sharp bones that may cause sores in the future.
What type of specialist treats Charcot foot?
Generally, physicians who specialize in foot conditions, such as an orthopedic surgeon specializing in the foot and ankle, treat Charcot foot.