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What causes Charcot foot?

A:

Quick Answer

Charcot foot is caused by neuropathy, a condition in which nerve damage decreases a patient's ability to feel sensation in the foot, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Diabetes represents the most common cause of neuropathy in this part of the body.

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Full Answer

Other underlying health conditions, such as leprosy, syphilis, poliomyelitis, chronic alcoholism or syringomyelia, also cause neuropathy in the legs, notes the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. Fractures and deformities in the lower leg, ankle and foot happen when patients cannot feel pain related to poor circulation and continue to walk on damaged limbs. One or more bones break after this hindered circulation weakens bone structures surrounding the ankle.

Patients may continue to walk on the damaged foot even after a fracture, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Broken bones continue to press downward on the foot, which causes even more severe breaks and dislocations of joints. Sharp edges of bones increase foot sores due to abnormal pressure. Early symptoms of Charcot foot include swelling in the foot, redness and changes to the bone.

Treatment for Charcot foot includes trying to heal the broken bones, notes the AAOS. A cast protects the broken foot, and patients can use crutches to walk. The healing process may take up to three months. People may have surgery for severe fractures, instability in the foot or a bony prominence poking out of the foot. Some complicated surgeries may involve plates and screws to stabilize the area.

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