If you or someone you care about has diabetes, you already know that it can affect every area of life. Fluctuating sugar levels damage your blood vessels, nerves, internal organs, and more. One of the first areas to be effected by the sugary sting of diabetes mellitus is your feet. If not taken seriously, the damage you experience could eventually lead to Charcot foot: the total breakdown of your arches and a severe foot deformity. If you are careful, however, you don’t have to deal with a debilitating foot collapse.
One of the ways out-of-control diabetes cripples your feet is by damaging your nerves. When your nerves are not relaying messages to your brain about pain or issues in your feet, you might never know you have a problem. You would continue to walk and do normal activities, not allowing your slowed immune system to try to repair the damage. Over time, that damage would compound, turning a small injury into a serious condition.
This is how Charcot foot collapses your arches. You incur a small, maybe unnoticeable injury to your arch that your body has a hard time healing. You continue to walk on the foot, increasing the stress on your bones. After a while they crack and grind down—but if your nerve damage is bad enough, you still may not feel it. Eventually the bones collapse altogether, crippling your foot.
Treating a Collapse
If you have already experienced this, seeking immediate treatment can mean the difference between walking again and possibly losing your foot to amputation. Our doctors will examine your foot and may request diagnostic images, like x-rays or MRIs, to evaluate the extent of the injury. Once they have an idea of how your bones look, they can help you determine your best course of treatment.
Your foot will need to be immobilized in a cast, brace, or boot while your now fragile bones heal. Removing all weight from them is important to keep the arch from collapsing further. It may mean several months of staying off the affected foot until the physicians have determined it is safe to use it again. Once your bones have been repaired, you might need special shoes or orthotics to cushion and support your feet and prevent a second breakdown. Even if the condition occurs in just one foot, you are more likely to develop it in the other as well, so both feet will need to be protected.
If the collapse is serious, you may need surgery to repair and reset your bones.
Preventing the Pain
Avoiding the discomfort and deformity of Charcot foot in the first place is better than having to deal with the long treatment and recovery. In addition to working with doctors to keep your blood sugars under control and limit diabetic damage, you will need to take extra care of your feet. Wash and inspect them every day to look for signs of injury or changes in your foot shape and structure. If you notice any changes, contact Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona immediately for an appointment to investigate the potential problem and treat it before it becomes worse. If you need prescription shoes or orthotics, use them—they protect your feet by accommodating your individual needs.
Charcot foot is a serious and dramatic condition that you risk when you do not care for your diabetes, but it doesn’t have to disable you. By working with Drs. David Laurino, Antonius Su, and Darick Freestone, you can prevent the damage from affecting your feet or treat it early if it has already begun. Don’t wait and risk severe injury that needs a permanent solution like amputation. Contact Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona for an appointment or more information by visiting our online contact page or by calling either of our two offices: for our Chandler location, call (480) 963-9000 or fax (480) 963-0375; and for our Gilbert office, call (480) 981-1800 or fax (480) 981-0229.