What is Charcot Foot?

What is Charcot Foot?

Uncontrolled diabetes often leads to problems in your legs and feet, including diabetic ulcers and peripheral neuropathy. Another of the conditions that diabetes causes is called Charcot foot.

Although Charcot foot is uncommon, it's a severe complication of diabetes. It leads to serious deformity in one or both of your feet.

Dr. Jeffrey E. McAlister and the Phoenix Foot and Ankle Institute team offer specialized foot and ankle care when you're living with diabetes.

Dr. McAlister is an expert foot and ankle specialist who provides you with a quick diagnosis and customized treatments to prevent further complications from Charcot foot.

The facts on Charcot foot

Charcot foot is a severe foot and ankle condition that often occurs in people with peripheral neuropathy. People who are living with diabetes are more likely to experience both peripheral neuropathy and Charcot foot.

One of the most significant factors in Charcot foot is extreme numbness in one or both of your feet. Your bones also become weak with this condition, leading to fractures and dislocations.

However, because your feet are numb, you may not notice pain related to these injuries. Without treatment, fractures and dislocations result in even more damage to the joints and structures within your foot.

The result of Charcot foot and ankle is ultimately deformity of the bones, leading to pressure sores and ulcers that may go unnoticed due to numbness.

What are the symptoms?

Charcot foot happens in three stages: fragmentation and destruction, coalescence, and reconstruction. The symptoms of the condition are often at their worst during the fragmentation and destruction stage and include the following:

During the coalescence stage, your body attempts to heal the damage done to your feet and ankles. You may notice your symptoms, such as redness or swelling, slowly improving.

You enter the reconstruction stage as your body continues to heal your foot. While your foot and ankle tissues heal on the inside, the result is often an unstable deformed foot or ankle on the outside.

In the last stage, you may also notice the beginnings of pressure sores or ulcers from the deformity in your foot.

Charcot foot treatments

The main goal of Charcot foot treatments is to offload pressure on the foot to prevent further deformity and damage. Dr. McAlister uses several therapies to reduce swelling and slow the progression of redness and warmth, which include the following:


To prevent the fragile bones in your foot from deforming, you need to keep any pressure off the area to allow your bones to heal correctly.

Dr. McAlister immobilizes your foot or ankle and provides you with crutches or a wheelchair to keep any excess pressure off the fragile foot and ankle.

It can take several months for your bones to heal correctly, and you'll need to be non-weight-bearing for most of this time.

Activity modification

You must protect your feet and ankles when at risk for Charcot foot. Dr. McAlister advises you to keep excess stress off your feet and ankles to prevent the worsening of the condition or Charcot from developing in the other foot.

Specialized shoes or braces

After your foot heals, you may need customized shoes to keep pressure off your foot and prevent the recurrence of Charcot foot. These shoes may also help prevent pressure ulcers from forming due to foot deformity.

You may need specialized braces if you have a severe deformity of your foot from Charcot disease to help you walk and do everyday activities.

In severe cases of Charcot foot, Dr. McAlister recommends surgery to realign the bones in your foot to prevent severe complications from the condition.

If you're struggling with diabetic foot care, don't hesitate to call our team at 602-761-7819 to schedule a consultation with Dr. McAlister, or book an appointment on the website.

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