Updated 30 January 2017

Charcot foot is often missed in diabetics

Charcot foot, a condition that can cause disability and amputation in diabetics is often missed due to peripheral neuropathy.


A debilitating condition called Charcot foot is often missed among the nearly 30 million Americans with diabetes, doctors say.

The condition is highly treatable, but if left alone it can lead to permanent deformity, disability, surgery and even amputation, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS).

Charcot foot can occur in the one-third of diabetes patients who lose feeling in their feet and other lower extremities, a condition called peripheral neuropathy.

In the early stages of Charcot foot, bones in the foot may weaken and break. Casts can help the bones heal and special orthopaedic footwear can protect the feet once the bones have healed, doctors say.

But if the condition isn't diagnosed early, the foot continues to be damaged and can become abnormal in shape. Many patients don't know they have Charcot foot until it's in this late stage.

"People think they don't have a problem because they feel no pain, but that isn't the case," Dr. Valerie Schade, a foot and ankle surgeon in Tacoma, Washington, said in an ACFAS news release.

"Anyone at risk for neuropathy, including diabetics, alcoholics and some chemotherapy patients, should see a foot and ankle surgeon early and at least once every year, even if they are considered low-risk," she added.

Monitoring for changes in the feet is the single most important way to prevent Charcot foot.

"Anyone who notices a difference - discomfort, unexplained swelling or redness, or changes to the shape of the foot - should seek care right away," Schade said.

Read more:
Recognising diabetic complications

Better treatment slashes diabetes complications

Diabetes to hit poor countries

Image: "Charcot arthropathy clinical examination" by J. Terrence Jose Jerome - Divergent Lisfranc’s Dislocation and Fracture in the Charcot Foot: A case report. Foot and Ankle Online Journal (FAOJ). 1 (6): 3.. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Diabetes expert

Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules