Charcot foot is a condition where the foot bones become weakened over time. It also affects the soft tissues and joints of the foot and/or ankle. As the foot bones are pushed downward and disorder progresses, the joints collapse and dislocate in the ankle or foot.
Likewise, the bones become prone to fracture with continued walking. The foot eventually gets deformed and takes on an irregular shape.
What Happens if You Don’t Treat Charcot Foot
If left untreated, this condition can lead to severe foot deformity like congenital vertical talus (rocker bottom foot). It can also result in disability or even amputation. That is why the Charcot foot must be treated in the early stage. Early treatment can prevent new damage and help you avoid complications.
This serious condition usually occurs in people with neuropathy, a significant damage to the peripheral nerves. Neuropathy is often associated with diabetes.
So, those with diabetes are at a high risk for developing Charcot foot. They must be particularly cautious and take all the necessary preventive measures. If symptoms or signs start appearing, they should seek medical care as soon as possible.
Charcot Foot Treatment Options
The treatment option for Charcot foot mostly depends on the severity of the disorder. Actually, the choice of treatment is typically based on the following four factors:
- Location of deformity
- Disease stage
- Existing comorbidities
- Presence of ulcerations
The primary goal of treatment is to treat bone disease while taking the weight off the affected foot (so-called “offloading”). It is also important to prevent the further joint destruction and foot deformity/fracture. The key is to achieve and maintain structural stability of both the ankle and foot.
There are non-surgical and surgical treatment options available.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
When it comes to non-surgical treatment, the most common options include:
Custom Orthotic Shoes
This option involves shoes with special inserts or custom-designed shoes. It is usually prescribed by a podiatrist after the initial foot swelling has diminished and the bones have healed.
The purpose of custom shoes is to enable the patients to return to their daily activities. This treatment option is also meant to prevent the development of ulcers and recurrence of Charcot foot.
Note: Bracing may also be required in the case of advanced deformities.
Immobilization only has an effect on Charcot foot during the early stages of this debilitating condition. The ankle and foot are very fragile in the early stages, so they must be protected.
It is imperative to remove all weight and pressure that bear from the affected foot. That way the foot is protected from further collapsing. It enables the weakened bones to repair themselves over time.
Casting Your Affected Foot
This is where casting comes in. A removable boot, cast, or brace reduces the swelling while protecting the foot and ankle. The cast actually keeps the foot from moving.
Once the doctor puts the affected foot in a cast, the patient won’t be able to walk on that foot for a while. This prevents the patient from putting weight on Charcot foot.
Keep in mind that healing may take 12 weeks or even more. Over this period, the cast will be changed several times—every week or two. The patient can only move around using a walker device, wheelchair, or crutches.
After removal of the cast, the patient is usually given an orthopedic footwear. Besides, some patients also need bracing. Activity modification may be needed as well to avoid any trauma to the feet.
Surgical Treatment Option
Sometimes, the Charcot deformity can become very severe so that surgery is necessary. Surgical treatment is usually recommended for patients who have severe foot and ankle deformities that increase the risk of ulcers.
It is also recommended if the foot deformity makes orthotic shoes and braces ineffective or difficult to use. Dislocations, fractures, and unstable foot can also lead to surgery.
The surgeon might fuse or realign the bones during the operation. That makes the foot more stable. After surgery, the patient must avoid putting any weight on the affected foot for some time. That makes the bones to start healing.
People with Charcot foot should be highly dedicated to taking preventive or extra care. By recognizing the disorder early, you’ll avoid future complications. It’s possible to minimize the risk of developing this condition.
You need to manage blood sugar regularly, eat in moderation, and exercise occasionally. To ensure the best result from a treatment option, it’s critical to follow the doctor’s instructions.
If you have any symptom of Charcot foot, be sure to contact our office as soon as you can.