Diabetes means more changes for your body than simply watching what you eat. It’s a systemic disease that affects all areas of your health—including your feet and ankles. Over time, fluctuating blood sugar levels damage the structures in your lower limbs. Eventually this can give rise to conditions like Charcot foot.
Sugar Weakening Bones: Diabetic Foot Collapse
Charcot foot is the slow breakdown of the bones in lower limbs with severe neuropathy. Nerve damage from diabetic neuropathy means you are unable to feel most injuries to your feet. High and fluctuating sugar levels also deteriorate your bone tissue, weakening it, so your skeleton is more likely to develop small fractures under pressure. If you are unable to feel this happening because of nerve damage, you will not know to get the help to treat the issue. You will continue to walk on fractured bones, breaking them down further.
Over time, pressure on your midfoot, along with small injuries, cause the arch to become inflamed and slowly collapse downward. This deforms the foot. You may be more prone to ulcers and have trouble wearing most shoes. The affected foot will feel warm to the touch and may appear red. There will be swelling around the damage. As the condition progresses and becomes acute, you may notice pain or soreness in the affected limb.
Saving Your Diabetic Foot
The deformities that develop from Charcot foot are serious and will be permanent—or result in an amputation—unless they are treated. The sooner you notice and manage the condition, the more likely it can be treated successfully with conservative methods. Waiting too long allows serious damage to develop that may require surgery. Dr. Darren Silvester and our expert team here at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic will examine your lower limbs, use X-rays to determine the extent of your deformity, and decide on the best remedies to help.
Conservative treatment revolves around managing your diabetes and eliminating pressure on the affected foot. Your lower limb will be immobilized in a cast or special boot to keep your bones in the right place. This will also help decrease swelling. Any ulcers will need to be cleaned and bandaged to prevent infections. You’ll have to avoid all weight-bearing until your bones heal, too, which may take several months. Once your foot has recovered, you’ll still need to wear special custom shoes to support and protect your more fragile lower limbs.
Severe deformities will most likely need surgery to recover. This may include removing bony prominences, lengthening tightened tendons, and reconstructing the midfoot. Depending on how stable your bones are, you may need hardware to pin the bones in the right place. Any infected bone tissue will need to be excised to prevent life-threatening complications. When the surgery is complete, your foot will be casted to keep it still as it heals.
Catching Charcot foot before it deteriorates into a permanent problem is the key to being able to walk normally. The right remedy can mean the difference between an amputation and maintaining your mobility and independence. If you have diabetes and notice unusual changes in your lower limbs, contact Dr. Darren Silvester at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic immediately. Call our Universal City office at (210) 375-3318 or Pleasanton office at (830) 569-3338 or use our website to request an appointment.