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Family Foot Care & Surgery, LLC

Charcot Foot: Slow Diabetic Breakdown

Collapsed structures can’t do their jobs. Think of a bridge that has fallen down. It can’t help you cross a river, stream, or any other obstacle in your way. A fallen-in roof doesn’t protect you from bad weather. Collapsed and flattened tires won’t roll correctly, if at all. A limb suffering from a diabetic foot collapse, called Charcot foot, won’t function correctly, either.

How Diabetes Can Break Down Your Arches

Diabetic Foot Examination

Diabetes is a serious systemic condition that damages blood vessels and impairs nerve functions. Elevated blood sugars deteriorate your body’s tissues, weakening them significantly and making them more susceptible to problems. Your feet have a particularly high risk for this, since they have a naturally weak circulation. The nerve damage this causes means your lower limbs are far less sensitive to pain than normal, too. You could easily develop an injury and never feel it. You could continue walking on damage and make the problem worse without realizing it as well.

This is how Charcot foot develops. As an extreme complication of diabetes, the bones in the feet slowly break down, collapsing the arch. Out-of-control blood sugar levels weaken the bones in your feet and make them prone to tiny fractures. Because the impaired nerves in your lower limbs are deadened or misfire frequently, you can’t feel the bone damage. You continue walking, making these little fractures worse and breaking down the bone tissue. Eventually, your arch and even your ankle can collapse and deform.

Symptoms of Charcot Foot

You can’t rely on pain to warn you about something like a damaged diabetic foot, since your nerves have to be significantly impaired for you to develop this condition in the first place. There are other symptoms, however. Typically a collapsing foot will feel warmer than normal to the touch, particularly around the arch. Your foot will swell up, often without an obvious outer injury. Frequently the midfoot will appear reddened as well. Advanced cases may have obvious deformities from the bones shifting or jutting down. In addition, you may be more prone to ulcers.

How to Restore Your Arch

Charcot foot is very serious at any stage and can have potentially permanent consequences. The bone breakdown deforms the foot, and puts you at risk for life-threatening infections. Left untreated, your foot might have to be amputated. All of this can be prevented, however, by taking care of the problem right away. Dr. Sanjay Patel will examine your lower limbs to determine the extent of the damage and look for infections. Our team will probably need diagnostic images to see your bones more clearly. Then we’ll help you move forward with treatment.

Conservative methods are usually tried first. Your foot will need to be casted so the bones can heal properly, and you won’t be able to put any weight on that limb for several weeks. Most likely you’ll need to have the cast or special boot changed periodically to make sure the bones set correctly and to accommodate a decrease in swelling. Any ulcers or infections will be addressed as well. Once your bones are healed, you’ll need to wear special shoes that protect and support your fragile feet to prevent the problem from recurring. Advanced cases with serious deformities might need a surgery to reconstruct the foot before spending time in a cast to recover.

Charcot foot is a very serious condition that needs prompt treatment to save your foot. Don’t neglect the problem and risk an amputation. Contact our team at Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C. for an appointment right away if you’re concerned about diabetic foot complications. You can reach us through our website, or by calling either of our Connecticut offices: (203) 288-4055 for our Hamden office, or (203) 876-7736 for our Milford location.

Dr. Sanjay V. Patel
Dr. Patel has over 20 years of experience in the field of podiatric medicine and podiatric surgery.