Think about how a bridge is structured with all the parts and pieces strategically put together so that it is able to stand strong and withstand the pressure of traffic passing over. Over many years however, if not cared for or properly monitored for damage, it can become unsound and possibly collapse. When you have diabetes, there is a chance the structure of your feet can become compromised from damage due to high blood sugars and lack of proper foot and health care. When the damage in your feet becomes severe, there is a risk you could develop a condition called Charcot foot. This deformity involves a breakdown in your arch, and the end result can be debilitating. If you have diabetes, we want you to be informed of this condition and what you can do to prevent it.
One of the common conditions associated with diabetes is neuropathy. Simply put, neuropathy is nerve damage in your feet that can occur when your blood glucose levels fluctuate and/or are not properly controlled. When nerves in your feet are damaged, you are less likely to feel heat, cold and pain. This becomes a serious situation, as an injury can occur of which you are not aware. In the case of Charcot foot, an injury can occur within the arch, but since the nerves in your foot are unable to relay pain signals to your brain, it goes unnoticed. You may continue walking on it and compounding the damage. Over time the stress on your foot increases, the small injury gets worse, and the bone structure can actually collapse and create a significant deformity.
In the early stages you may not feel any pain from the stress on your feet or the bones collapsing. If left to worsen though, you may notice a visible change in the shape of your foot, swelling, and red or irritated skin. When the foot actually changes shape, there is a high risk of an ulcer forming if you continue walking on the foot as well. In severe cases, this type of condition could become life-threatening or lead to amputation.
Treating the Problem
Immediate treatment is imperative with this foot condition. As you are diligent about your diet and glucose levels, stay on top of your foot care. If you notice any changes to your feet, contact Dr. Tejas Pandya as soon as possible. We can take an X-ray or MRI to evaluate the extent of the injury and determine the best course of treatment. Generally, the first step is to get your foot immobilized with a boot, cast or brace, so the bones are protected and are able to repair themselves. Keeping weight off the affected foot is the only way to ensure the bones do not collapse any further, and it could be a process that takes several months. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to repair and reset the bones. At the end of each scenario, we suggest the use of custom orthotics or special shoes to support your feet and prevent a second breakdown or injury to the other foot.
While Charcot foot can be a serious, disabling foot condition, it can be avoided if you care for your diabetes and take action when you first begin to notice symptoms. At the onset, Dr. Tejas Pandya can prevent the damage from affecting your feet long term and avoid grave complications. Don’t ignore your symptoms – there is no need to risk an amputation when there are viable, effective treatment options available. Capital District Podiatry at (518) 273-0053, or you can request an appointment or find more information on our website.