Rare Diabetes Foot Complication Becoming More Common In The U.S.

Few people with diabetes know about the limb-threatening foot condition, or its warning signs

As diabetes rates soar nationwide, a Sarasota, FL foot and ankle surgeon says he’s seeing more patients with a rare diabetic foot complication.

The condition is called Charcot foot (pronounced SHAR-co). Foot and ankle surgeon Dr. James M. Cottom, DPM, FACFAS, says it involves a sudden softening of the foot’s bones. This can trigger an avalanche of problems, including joint loss, fractures, collapse of the arch, massive deformity, ulcers, amputation, and even death.

“As the foot’s structure collapses, the bottom of the foot can become convex, bulging like the hull of a ship,” says Cottom. “But diabetes patients frequently won’t feel any pain because they have severe nerve damage in their lower extremities.”

Cottom says every person with diabetes should know the Charcot foot warning signs: a red, hot, swollen foot or ankle. Several other dangerous conditions, such as deep vein thrombosis and acute infections, share these symptoms. A red, hot, swollen foot or ankle requires emergency medical care.

The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) estimates less than one percent of people with diabetes develop Charcot foot. But nationwide, the College’s 6,800 members say they’re noticing more Charcot cases as more Americans develop diabetes.

Charcot cannot be reversed, but its destructive effects can be stopped if the condition is detected early. People with diabetes play a vital role in preventing Charcot foot and its complications. Diabetes patients should keep blood sugar levels under control. This has been shown to reduce the progression of nerve damage in the feet. People with diabetes should also inspect both of their feet every day, and get regular check-ups from Dr. Cottom at Florida Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Center.

For more information on Charcot foot and other diabetic foot conditions, visit the ACFAS consumer Web site, FootHealthFacts.org or contact Dr. Cottom’s office at 941.924.8777 or via the website.

Dr. Cottom is a double board certified in foot and rearfoot/ankle reconstructive surgery.  He has been practicing in the Sarasota and Arcadia, FL area for 10 years.