If you have diabetes, taking good care of your feet is critical to staying healthy. Diabetes can cause you to lose sensation in your feet, and you may not realize when you experience a foot injury. Even a minor cut or injury can lead to diabetic foot ulcers and other serious problems. In severe cases, diabetic foot problems can lead to infections and other complications that may require limb-saving surgery.
Charcot foot is a progressive disease where the bones in the foot or ankle joints deteriorate and weaken. Having diabetic neuropathy can put you at risk for Charcot foot because it decreases the sensation in your feet. In severe cases, the foot may take an abnormal shape due to a collapse of the midfoot arch.
The condition usually begins with inflammation and eventually, the shape of the foot may become fractured and deformed. It can cause pain, difficulty wearing shoes, skin breakdown, non-healing ulcers, and infections. If you experience the following symptoms, make an appointment with a podiatric surgeon to have your feet examined:
- Loss of sensation in the foot or ankle
- Swelling of the foot or ankle
- Loss of sensation to heat or cold
- Affected area is warm to the touch
- Redness of the foot or ankle
- Visible deformities of the foot or ankle
Nonsurgical treatment of Charcot foot may involve wearing a special boot, custom shoes or bracing to immobilize and protect the foot. In some cases, the deformity is severe enough to warrant surgical correction. A single procedure may be all that is needed to alleviate pressure points. For the most complex cases, reconstructive foot and ankle surgery may be required to realign and fuse the bones in the proper position.
Our Approach to Care
At MedStar Health, our diabetic limb specialists offer the most advanced treatment options for people who suffer from Charcot foot and other diabetes-related foot problems. We offer an array of comprehensive services including:
- Foot and ankle reconstructive surgery corrects the structures of the foot to restore function.
- Gait evaluation analyzes how you stand or walk to detect areas of pressure and potential ulceration.
- Prosthetic devices improve mobility with an artificial limb in cases when an arm or other extremity is amputated or lost.
- Total contact casting involves fitting a non-removable cast to protect the affected limb.
- Wound care services include the medical removal of damaged or infected tissue, if needed, as well as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) and other techniques to promote healing.
Diabetic orthotics evaluates you for specialized, prescription footwear designed to reduce the risk of wounds or injuries as a result of diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage).
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Frequently Asked Questions
Diabetic neuropathy (loss of normal nerve sensation) and peripheral vascular disease (poor circulation) can cause serious problems including:
- Diabetic foot ulcers (wounds that do not heal)
- Infections of the skin or bone
- Gangrene (dead tissue caused by loss of circulation)
- Charcot foot (fractures and severe deformities)
Getting medical treatment for your wound is key to recovery, as well as treating any underlying health issues affecting the healing process. If you have diabetes, it’s important to keep your blood sugar under control. You should also follow a healthy diet to ensure your body is getting the nutrition it needs to promote wound healing. Ask your doctor about starting a diabetes education program.