Over 60% of people living with diabetes experience problems with their feet, and Charcot is one of the more serious complications.
Charcot is a condition of the foot typically experienced by people suffering from neuropathy, oftentimes as a result of diabetes.
Charcot presents early on as a red, swollen and warm foot. This is often mistaken for infection, Gout or blood clot. Charcot involves a weakening of the bones and ligaments in the foot. If not properly treated, this condition can lead to bone fractures and a deformed foot resulting in a rounded, rocker-bottom shape. This deformity puts the foot at risk for ulceration and infection. Charcot can make walking painful and difficult, and in the worst cases, result in amputation.
While a serious condition, Charcot can be treated without surgery if detected and diagnosed early. Once a specialist has recorded the patient's symptoms and health history and examined the structures of the foot and ankle, a proper course of care can be determined. Treatment of Charcot may involve:
- Immobilization. The patient may be fitted with a cast or a removable boot or brace to give the bones an opportunity to heal by relieving the pressure caused by walking or standing. Getting around with the foot immobilized may require the use of crutches, and in some cases, a wheelchair.
- Shoe inserts. After the immobilization device is removed, properly fitted orthotic shoe inserts may be required to support the continued healing of the bones in the feet and help reduce the danger of ulcers.
- Bracing. Ongoing use of a brace may be required to support and preserve the shape of the foot and ankle, and prevent deformity and the need for surgical treatment.
The effects of Charcot can be addressed through ongoing lifestyle changes such as taking extra care to avoid injury and checking both feet for signs of Charcot, especially if one has already been treated. For people living with diabetes, monitoring and controlling blood sugar levels can reduce the progression of neuropathy, which leads to Charcot. Refer to our Charcot FAQ for more information about the condition. Regular check-ups from a foot and ankle expert are vital for anyone recovering from — or who is at risk for developing — Charcot.