Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Foot FAQ

Question:

What is a Charcot foot? My mother with diabetes has just been diagnosed with this problem.

Answer:

Charcot foot affects the mid-section of the foot. It was named after a doctor (Jean-Martin Charcot) who lived in the 1800s and was the first to describe the problem. Charcot foot is a complication of diabetes.

Nerve damage from diabetes causes a loss of foot sensation. The muscles can't support the joints properly. The patient is at risk for foot injuries such as sprains and small fracture. The ligaments get loose or lax and the bones can no longer stay in alignment. Uneven wear and tear causes the bone to wear unevenly. Foot deformity is next.

Without the support of the ligaments and muscles the bones of the midfoot called metatarsals drop down. Instead of a curved foot arch, the bottom of the foot goes flat. It can even go so far as to look like the bottom of a rocker called a rocker- bottom foot deformity.

With Charcot foot, it's important to prevent more joint damage and foot deformity. Physical therapy combined with proper footwear is important. Encourage your mother to follow her doctor's advice. If she reports any redness, warmth, or swelling in her feet, send her to the doctor right away. She shouldn't "wait-and-see" what happens over a couple of days. Early treatment can make a big difference.

James S. Davitt, MD, et al. An Association Between Functional Second Metatarsal Length and Midfoot Arthosis. In Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. April 2005. Vol. 87-A. No. 4. Pp. 795-800.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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