The thought of standing or walking on a heavily injured foot is enough to make anyone cringe. But what if you didn’t feel it? What if your foot was slowly breaking down beneath your weight and you couldn’t tell it was happening? That’s the frightening reality faced by those who suffer from Charcot foot, and why early diagnosis and treatment of this disorder is vital.
Charcot foot is the result of neuropathy, a damaging of the nerves in the feet. This is a common condition in people who have diabetes, but can be caused by poor circulation and other issues as well. Nerve damage deadens sensation in the feet, making injuries to the foot more difficult to feel, if felt at all. As an injured foot continues to be used, it can weaken to the point that the bones fracture, shift, or collapse. This may eventually lead to deformity, an inability to use the foot, or even the need for amputation, thus treating Charcot foot promptly is essential.
Signs of the condition include redness and swelling in the affected foot. It might also feel warmer than the other foot. Pain or an aching soreness may or may not be felt, depending on the degree of neuropathy experienced.
Due to the potential severity of this condition, it is very important that any suspected case of Charcot foot is brought to our attention at Shenandoah Podiatry as soon as possible. The odds of treating the condition successfully increase the earlier it is detected. During examination, it is helpful to know of any recent events or activities that may have created an opportunity for injury. X-rays or other imaging tests may also be ordered to help diagnose the problem.
Non-surgical treatments for Charcot foot should be followed closely to prevent further damage and risk of extremity loss. The foot and ankle may be immobilized to prevent further damage while bones heal. The use of a cast, brace, crutches, wheelchair or other equipment may be necessary, but no weight should be placed on the affected foot until it is determined safe to do so. Once the bones have healed, custom orthotics may be prescribed to help prevent a recurrence of injury. A brace may also be required in some cases, depending on the extent of any deformities that may have taken place. Changes to one’s activity and lifestyle may also be recommended as a measure to protect both feet from future injury.
In severe cases, surgery may become necessary. The procedure undertaken will depend on the type and extent of damage.
Naturally, the best way of treating Charcot foot is to reduce the risk of it happening in the first place. If you have diabetes, manage your blood sugar levels to slow nerve damage in your feet. Also be sure to inspect your feet daily for signs of damage and receive podiatric check-ups on a regular basis if you have neuropathy. Dr. Jennifer Keller and the staff of Shenandoah Podiatry are committed to working with you to help your feet stay healthy and prevent serious complications from arising. Schedule an appointment by calling our Roanoke office at (540) 904-1458.