We treat many lower limb conditions for patients here at Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida, but ones associated with diabetes can be particularly concerning. Medical complications like Charcot foot—a condition of severe deformity in the lower extremities—highlight the need for vigilant diabetic foot care and the importance of giving extra attention to your lower limbs if you are living with diabetes. Our doctors can help you with this by creating a diabetic foot care plan so you are able to reduce the risk of incidents from happening in the first place and catch them early (when they are most effectively treated).
Understanding Charcot Foot Causes and Symptoms
If everything is healthy in your lower limbs, you’re probably unaware of how much force you put on your feet and ankles. This is only natural – just think about how often we take things for granted until a problem arises. Some people might not know this, but every step we take even while simply walking around and performing daily activities places at least one-and-a-half times our body weight on our feet. This is important as we look at why Charcot foot develops.
Charcot foot stems from weakened foot bones and neuropathy (nerve damage), both of which are frequently connected to diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy is experienced by over half of all diabetic individuals. It can cause tingling or burning sensations that are sometimes rather painful, but an even greater problem is when neuropathy causes numbness and leaves feet unable to feel any injuries or damage they sustain.
In addition to damaged nerves, diabetes can also cause peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD is a condition of impaired blood circulation, which is especially problematic for the feet. Your lower appendages are the furthest points of the body from your heart, which means oxygenated blood already has the longest distance to travel in order to reach them. When narrowed arteries caused by PAD restrict the blood flow, it deprives your body tissues—like the bones in your feet—of the essential nourishment they need.
Weakened bones in the feet can more easily and frequently fracture (as a result of the tremendous forces placed on them). When your sense of feeling in your feet is undetected by your brain—since damaged nerves are not relaying the messages—you continue to walk as you normally would. In turn, this leads to more breakage in your foot bones. The dangerous cycle repeats until your foot has become severely deformed and it causes major problems.
If you live with diabetes, you should be aware of the symptoms and warning signs of this medical condition. Since you might not experience pain (because of neuropathy), other symptoms need to be observed for you to know there is an issue. These symptoms include soreness, redness, and warmth to the touch (particularly in comparison to your other foot). Unexplainable swelling is also a major warning sign this problem might be present.
Early diagnosis and professional treatment is imperative for lowering your risk of amputation. If you have diabetes and become aware of any of these symptoms, call us and schedule the earliest possible appointment so one of our foot doctors can properly assess the situation for you. If it is Charcot foot, we will provide the care you need.
Treatment and Prevention
Treatment for Charcot foot will depend on a variety of factors, including the stage and severity of the deformity, your overall wellbeing, and any other existing medical issues.
If the condition is caught early and can benefit from nonsurgical care, our treatment plan might include:
- Immobilization – During the early stages, your foot and ankle will tend to be especially fragile so protecting them is essential. Affected feet should not bear weight. This will help to prevent further collapse and give your weakened bones the opportunity to repair.
- Activity modification – To prevent repeated trauma in either or both of your feet, your normal activity levels will need to be adjusted. The doctor treating you will provide specific instructions in this regard.
- Bracing and custom shoes – After fractured bones have had time to heal and you are able to return to some of your normal activities, your doctor may prescribe shoes with special inserts (orthotics) to prevent ulcers and recurrence of Charcot foot. Braces may also be used in treating cases where significant deformity has already occurred.
Preventing Charcot foot from developing in the first place is strongly preferred. You can reduce your risk of developing this serious condition by practicing diligent diabetic foot care. Our doctors will guide you through an appropriate plan, which will include managing your diabetes, performing daily foot inspections, and coming in to one of our five Florida offices for regular checkups. Managing the disease is especially important because you can reduce the progress of neuropathy by maintaining appropriate glucose levels in your blood stream.
Always contact us immediately if you are diabetic and observe anything out of the ordinary with your feet or toes!
Our podiatrists are experienced and skilled in helping patients create diabetic foot care plans and providing care for lower limb issues. We will help you understand what measures you should take to protect your feet. Remember, after prevention, early treatment is your best option to save your foot, so contact us at the first sign of this condition. Call us at 407-339-7759 or 352-589-9550 (if you call from Lake County) or request your appointment at any of our Florida locations—Altamonte Springs, Lake Mary, Kissimmee, Tavares, and Orlando—online right now.