Charcot Joint

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A breakdown of the skeletal architecture of a joint. In people with diabetes, this condition most commonly affects the foot. Especially susceptible to Charcot joint are people with diabetes who have severe peripheral nerve damage. Because they have lost sensation in their extremities, they may not notice foot injuries such as a twisted ankle, a cut, or a blister on the foot. Recurrent abuse from infection or from putting weight incorrectly on the foot due to previous injuries can gradually damage the bones, joints, and ligaments of the foot, leading to Charcot joint. This condition may cause the foot or ankle to become warm, red, or swollen, and even to change shape. Doctors diagnose Charcot joint based on its appearance and sometimes with the aid of x-rays.

People who develop Charcot joint must avoid putting any weight on the foot until it has healed and may even need to wear a cast while it heals. Afterward, they must wear special shoes that help distribute body weight away from the affected area. In some cases, the foot must be treated surgically to reconstruct it and restore its shape.

To protect against Charcot joint, inspect the tops and bottoms of your feet every day. Be sure to let your doctor know if you have blisters or cuts, or if your foot or ankle appears red or swollen. Also, inspect your shoes often to make sure they contain no foreign objects, such as pebbles, which can injure the feet.

Originally Published May 19, 2006

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