Charcot (“shar-ko”) foot is a foot deformity that results from nerve damage in the foot or ankle. The nerve damage may cause minor pain and then a loss of sensation that increases the risk of injury to the feet. When the foot is repeatedly injured, the weight-bearing joints start breaking down.
Charcot foot refers to the breakdown of the arch and normal foot structure in a person with nerve damage. Because Charcot’s joint usually happens to people who have nerve damage, there’s little pain, even though they may have broken bones.
This condition most often results from nerve damage caused by diabetes. People whose blood sugar levels have not been controlled well for 15 to 20 years are more likely to develop Charcot foot.
Early signs of Charcot foot include redness, swelling, and increased temperature of the foot. A skin sore or infection may be present. Later, the foot becomes unstable and deformed.
Early detection and treatment of the condition can prevent deformity and loss of function as well as possible amputation.
Treatments for Charcot’s joint include immobilizing the foot in a cast or special boot and resting it so it can heal. Sometimes surgery can realign the joints of the foot.
If you can’t get your regular shoes on, or if you have any changes in foot shape along with redness, swelling, or warmth, stay off that foot, and report it immediately to your healthcare provider.
If you continue to walk on a foot with Charcot’s joint, you will make it worse. The breakdown may occur fairly quickly. Sometimes it is difficult even for experts to tell the difference between Charcot’s joint and infection.