Erosion is a powerful force in nature. Given enough time, wind or water can weaken and destabilize solid stone. Even strong foundations can end up eroded away. Your body can experience its own type of “erosion” and breakdown in your foundations as well. Out-of-control problems like diabetes can seriously deteriorate the bones in your lower limbs, leading to complications like Charcot foot.
Diabetes is a body-wide disease that involves high and fluctuating sugar levels. These sugar levels are very damaging. They deaden your nerves and impair your circulation. Together, these issues can actually weaken your bone structures. These multiple side effects can prove to be a dangerous combination for your lower limbs.
Poor circulation restricts the nutrients, oxygen, and healing factors your lower limbs have access to. This contributes to a general weakening of the bones in your lower limbs. Over time, hard bone tissue can grow weak enough to crack and fracture easily. To further complicate the issue, severe diabetic neuropathy deadens the nerves in your lower limbs, making it difficult—if not impossible—for your feet to feel injuries. This means you are unable to feel the fractures developing in the supporting bones through your midfoot. This is Charcot foot.
Usually there is very little to no pain at all in the lower limbs while this develops. Because people with severe diabetic neuropathy are unable to feel the bones in their arches deteriorating and collapsing, they usually continue walking on the affected foot. This, naturally, contributes to the condition. The repetitive pressure from walking on weak and fracturing bones can break down the arch faster.
Slowly the foot flattens out and develops a “rocker-bottom” appearance. The limb becomes unstable and swollen. Often the foot will appear red or discolored in some way. It might feel warm to the touch and slightly sore as well. The longer Charcot foot progresses, the worse the deformity becomes. You might also develop ulcers from the abnormal pressures on your foot.
This condition is treatable, especially if you address the problem right away. Our specialists will carefully evaluate your lower limbs to check for Charcot foot damage. We will need X-rays or other diagnostic images to get a full picture of the extent of the problem. Then we can help you plan out the best possible way to reverse your foot collapse and prevent it in the future.
Sometimes the condition can be managed conservatively. All of your weight will have to be off the affected foot. Your damaged bones are very fragile, so they will need to be immobilized to heal. Most likely you will wear a cast or special boot during this time. Once the bones have recovered, you’ll slowly begin walking on that foot again. This will mean going slowly and avoiding hard-impact activities. You’ll need to wear supportive diabetic shoes or braces to accommodate your fragile feet and help avoid the condition in the future. If the bones are too damaged or the deformity is too severe, you might need surgery to reconstruct the midfoot before going through the casting process.
Although Charcot foot is a serious condition, it doesn’t have to mean a complete foot deformity or amputation for you. The prompt, proper care can correct the problem, and the right preventative measures can help you avoid it altogether. Let our team at Gulf South Foot & Ankle, LLC, help you keep your diabetic feet as healthy as possible. Call us for an appointment or use our online form.