Charcot Foot – Development, Risk Factors and Prevention

Several factors are necessary in order for Charcot foot to develop. At least one of these factors is frequently present in diabetes, which is why the condition is much more common among diabetics than it is among the general public. Here's a look at the factors that precipitate the condition.

Peripheral Neuropathy

The peripheral nervous system consists of many tiny nerve endings that allow for the sense of touch in the fingers and for our brains to recognize that an injury has occurred in the toes or feet. If a person has a peripheral neuropathy, the nerves in the extremities have been damaged.

Neuropathies are common complications of diabetes, due to reduced nutrient supply to the nerves and / or damage by chronic inflammation, uncontrolled blood glucose levels or high blood insulin levels. When the nerves became damaged, there is decreased sensation in the extremities, usually occurring in the toes first, although the fingertips may become less sensitive, as well.

Unrecognized Injury

A person with neuropathies may injure their feet, sometimes repeatedly, without being aware of it, because of the decreased sensation or "feeling" in their feet. An unrecognized injury is usually the first step towards Charcot foot.

In an effort to prevent the deformity and to prevent other complications, such as ulceration, sepsis and amputation, people with neuropathies and all diabetics are advised to inspect their feet daily for any sign of injury. Pain may not be present, but redness or swelling should be noticeable.

As the deformity begins and progresses, pressure is placed on parts of the feet that are not accredited to dealing with it. For example, as the big toe begins to turn outward, more pressure is placed on the side of the toe, which can lead to a blister, which can become infected or fail to heal and lead to an ulcer.

So, while Charcot foot is sometimes a complication of diabetes, it can also lead to further complications, such as ulceration.

Stress on the Injured Structure

If during regular inspection, a person notices redness or swilling, the injured structure can be protected, through rest, the use of crutches or a wheel chair. If the injury continues to go unnoticed, additional stress causes the damage that is the second step towards Charcot foot.

Increased Blood Flow

Swelling indicates that there is increased blood flow as the body attempts to repair the injury on its own. However, the increased blood flow has a negative effect.

As well as carrying infection fighting white blood cells to the site, it carries away minerals that would normally help to rebuild the bone. As this process continues, the bones can suddenly become soft, which can lead to a greater injury or deformity and surgery.

What You Can Do

In addition to regular daily inspection, careful trimming of the nails and keeping the feet clean, you can also wear supportive footwear that helps reduce the risk of injury, by reducing the amount of stress placed on the feet. Charcot foot is on the rise among diabetics, according to a recent press release. You can avoid becoming one of the statistics with the right preventative care.