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The Challenges of Charcot Foot

There are some areas on the beach where shells have been crushed from people walking on them over and over again. The fragmented pieces continue to break with every step placed upon them. Having Charcot foot is like that. It occurs when nerve damage, often as a result of diabetes, keeps you from being aware of broken bones in your foot. Since you have no knowledge of the injury, you continue to walk, damaging the bones even further until they can no longer support you. This can lead to severe disability, deformity, and even amputation. Therefore it is crucial to understand the condition and know the signs.

Catch It Early

Those with diabetes are more susceptible to foot problems that can lead to serious complications. It is essential to keep a close eye on your feet for any signs of trouble. If you notice redness or swelling, if your foot seems misshapen, has a rocker-bottom appearance, or your skin is warm to the touch, seek help as soon as possible. These are all signs that you may be developing Charcot foot, also referred to as Charcot osteoarthropathy.  The joints in your foot will eventually collapse, and the condition will only progress if not treated immediately.

Correct it Non-Surgically

Early diagnosis is key to the success of treatment. An X-ray will be taken and you will be asked about previous activities that may have resulted in a fractured bone. Because your foot is fragile with this condition, and the bones are weakened, they need to be protected in order to repair themselves. This means absolute immobilization—no weight-bearing allowed.  A cast, boot, or brace and use of crutches or a wheelchair will ensure the rest your foot needs. When the bones are fully recovered, you will likely need to modify your activities and wear specialized shoes and inserts to avoid any further trauma.

When Surgery is Necessary

In some cases, Charcot foot deformities are so extreme that surgery needs to be performed to repair, replace, or realign the bones. The type of surgery will depend on the severity of the condition as well as your overall health. Our goal is to prevent amputation and we will do everything in our power to do so.

Prevent the Problem

The best way to avoid Charcot osteoarthropathy is to keep your diabetes in check. If your blood sugar levels are under control, it reduces the progression of nerve damage in your feet. You should also look over both of your feet every day, and visit your podiatrist at any signs of possible problems. Even if your feet seem healthy, regular visits are a must. Since those with tight Achilles tendons are prone to developing this condition, it is a good idea to incorporate Achilles stretches into your daily routine as well. Also, refrain from activities that could cause injury, and be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions without fail.  

If you notice any signs of Charcot osteoarthropathy or would simply like more information, call (512) 328-8900 and talk to Dr. Craig H. Thomajan DPM, FACFAS or Dr. Shine John, DPM, FACFAS today. You can also visit us at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists in Austin, TX or find us on Facebook. We can help you stop the problem and stay on your feet safely.

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