If you live with diabetes, it has likely been emphasized multiple times already how important it is to remain diligent in how you treat your body. This is also true for diabetic foot care, where regular self-inspections of your feet are highly recommended. It might seem like overkill to make these elements part of one’s daily life, but diabetes has a way of sneaking disaster upon someone before they even notice it. This is especially true when it comes to a dangerous condition known as Charcot foot.
A Covert Collapse
Diabetes can have many problematic effects on the body, but one that can be especially troublesome for the feet is peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage. The nerves in the feet are very susceptible to harm due to restricted circulation and other complications of diabetes. Eventually, the neuropathy can become so great that sensation in the foot is greatly reduced or even lost in areas entirely.
A foot that is unable to register pain is more likely to suffer undetected injuries. As poor circulation gradually weakens the bones of the feet, these injuries can grow worse. Fractures can develop—still without being felt—and the structure of the foot itself can shift. This breakdown and deformity is referred to as Charcot foot.
As someone with Charcot foot continues to walk on their fractured foot, the likelihood of developing open sores and infections greatly increases. The consequences of these problems can be dire. The foot may need to be amputated, the foot could become permanently disabled, or infection can even claim one’s life.
Catching Charcot Early
The more damage that Charcot foot causes, the more difficult it will be to treat effectively. This is why regular self-inspection is so important to diabetic foot care. Discovering a problem in the feet and treating it early is key to preventing highly dangerous complications.
You can’t rely on feeling to identify early signs of Charcot foot. Certain visual cues are more reliable:
- Swelling of the foot may be the most noticeable early sign, especially if there is no recollection of injuring the foot beforehand.
- Redness can also initially develop, and the area may be warmer to the touch.
Unfortunately, these may be the only initial signs of a problem. They should not be ignored, however, and neither should any cuts, sores, or other abnormalities on the foot that don’t clear up after a few days. These are all signs that poor circulation and peripheral neuropathy may be at play. It is much better to be aware of these facts and begin treating them than to risk the potential of undetected problems striking.
Treatments for Charcot foot will depend on the stage and severity of the condition. In some cases, a protective orthotic, brace, or cast may be used to allow the foot a greater ability to heal. In other cases, surgery may be necessary to realign the bones of the foot or prevent worse problems from occurring.
If you are concerned about problems you have noticed in your feet, or would like advice on best practices for diabetic foot care, contact Dr. Timothy Barry and the staff at Family Foot & Ankle Care of Jasper. Call us at (812) 481-7200 to schedule an appointment at our office behind Memorial Hospital. You can also contact us online.