Charcot-Marie Tooth Disease: How it Affects the Foot and Ankle

Charcot-Marie Tooth Disease: How it Affects the Foot and Ankle

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition often associated with diabetes, but other diseases lead to it as well. Charcot-Marie Tooth disease is a progressive condition that weakens the muscles and nerves in your legs and arms. If left untreated, it causes immobility and deformities in your feet, making simple tasks difficult.

At Phoenix Foot and Ankle Institute, our team members understand the difficulties of problems with your feet and ankles. Dr. Jeffrey E. McAlister has years of experience as a podiatrist and foot and ankle specialist. He and his team get to the bottom of your foot problems so you can finally get the relief you need.

Understanding Charcot-Marie Tooth disease

Charcot-Marie Tooth disease affects the nerves in the periphery of your body. Your central nervous system refers to the spinal cord and brain, while the peripheral nervous system encompasses all other nerves sending signals from your brain to other areas in your body or from the body back to the brain.

The disease was discovered in 1886 by three doctors: Dr. Jean Martin Charcot, Dr. Pierre Marie, and Dr. Howard Henry Tooth. They explained that the disease causes both motor and sensory problems within the peripheral nervous system, especially the feet, legs, arms, and hands.

The symptoms of this condition can appear as early as the adolescent years and progress into adulthood. However, it can strike later on in adulthood as well. The symptoms are usually first present in your feet and legs, but may progress into your arms and hands too.

Genetics are the main cause of this condition. The gene mutation can be passed from either one or both of your parents and determines what symptoms you’ll inherit.

How the condition affects your feet 

The symptoms of this disease often start in your feet. It affects both the muscles and nerves in your legs, and causes a number of problems, including:

Charcot foot and ankle disease is a serious problem that affects you if you have peripheral neuropathy from either CMT disease or diabetes. Due to the nerve damage from neuropathy, the bones in both your foot and ankle become weak.

The weakened bones are prone to fractures, and your ankle and foot joints can become dislocated. Continuing to walk on Charcot foot leads to deformity because of collapsing joints.

Deformities in your foot or ankle sometimes lead to open sores. If these sores become infected, you need antibiotics to treat the problem. However, if it’s left untreated, it may lead to amputation of the infected limb in severe cases.

Understanding the available treatments

If you’re exhibiting signs of peripheral neuropathy and it’s affecting your feet and ankles, it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible. Early intervention prevents issues like deformity and infected sores on your feet.

The treatment for CMT disease and Charcot foot and ankle is usually conservative. Dr. McAlister recommends physical therapy to help with the weakened muscles and flexibility. This allows you to improve your mobility.

If you have Charcot foot, the best treatment is to keep weight off the affected area. This helps with inflammation and keeps the foot from becoming deformed. Casting is often used during this period to keep the foot immobilized and protect it.

Casts or specialized braces stay in place for a few weeks while your foot heals. The casting is changed every few weeks to check on the progress of the condition. You’ll use assistive devices such as crutches or a walker.

Surgery is only needed when noninvasive measures haven’t worked. If you’re at this point, Dr. McAlister discusses the options for surgery with you at your appointment.

If you’re suffering from peripheral neuropathy and want specialized care, call us at 602-761-7819 to schedule a consultation with Dr. McAlister, or book an appointment online with us today.

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