With the number of diabetes cases growing nationwide, more diabetes patients are developing a somewhat rare, but dangerous foot complication called Charcot foot, according to a number of physicians with the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.
Charcot foot is a sudden softening of the foot’s bones caused by severe neuropathy, or nerve damage, a common diabetic foot complication. It can cause joint loss, fractures, collapse of the arch, massive deformity, ulcers, amputation and even death. It cannot be reversed, but early detection can arrest its effects.
Symptoms, which appear suddenly, include warm and red skin, swelling and pain. A diabetic with a red, swollen foot or ankle requires emergency medical care because these symptoms can also indicate deep vein thrombosis, or an infection.
"More people with diabetes, their families and their care providers need to know about Charcot foot," says J.T. Marcoux, DPM, one of a few Massachusetts foot and ankle surgeons who perform Charcot foot reconstructions. "When I diagnose a patient with this complication, I telephone their primary care doctor and educate them about it as well."
Apathy and diabetic denial are major factors in preventing the treatment of Charcot foot among diabetics, say Keith Jacobson, DPM, and Dr. Marcoux. "I’ve had patients who are literally blind, on dialysis and neuropathic, who refuse to admit they have diabetes," says Jacobson. "I’ve seen horrific deformities with this condition."
Meanwhile Kim Schraeder, one patient who was successfully treated for Charcot foot by Dr. Jacobson, is back walking on both feet and is carefully watched by her children for any reoccurrence of the condition. "They’re all like hawks now." she says. "If I’m sitting here with bare feet, they’ll look to make sure they’re not red, hot or swollen."
Source: American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons