Understanding what Charcot Means for Your Feet!

Many diabetic patients may have heard warnings to look out for “charcot foot” but they may not know exactly what this means.  Different from diabetic charcot foot is an inherited disease with another characteristic foot type called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.  As a part of September’s Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease awareness month, it is critical for patients to understand the differences between these two neurological disorders.


Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is caused by a gene defect that is often inherited.  If CMT is seen in other family members, parents should be on the lookout for the development of slowly progressing muscle weakness in the lower extremities before age 20.  Individuals with CMT have nerves that lose their myelin covering, which normally allows signals to be sent to and from skin and muscles at a normal speed allowing sensation and muscle contraction.  Patients will not usually complain of any numbness because their sensation was likely never completely normal.  As a result of the weakness and loss of sensation, first in the legs then typically seen in the upper extremities, kids with CMT may seem clumsy and have difficulty walking without tripping or rolling their ankles. The feet will often have a high arch appearance and may be prone to ulcers from damage caused by lack of ability to sense pain.

Diabetic Charcot Foot

Patients with diabetes need to be concerned about charcot arthropathy when they develop areas of the foot where they can no longer feel anything.  The combination of lack of sensation allowing damage to the foot that patient cannot feel and an increased blood flow supplying mediators of the inflammatory process allows a “charcot joint” to develop.  In the charcot joint, the repeated small injuries occurring cause bones to gradually fracture and dislocate.   This causes deformity (often an extreme flat foot) which typically places the diabetic patient’s foot at a greatly increased risk of developing ulcers and subsequent infection with severe consequences.  The most common signs of the development of charcot arthropathy are swelling and increased temperature of the affected area of the foot, redness, pain and the feeling of a “loose bag of bones” when the joint is moved.

In both diabetes with loss of sensation, and Charcot-Marie-Tooth, foot self-exams are immeasurably important in preventing ulceration and further complications.  Protective shoe gear and custom made orthotics can provide additional protective measures for the foot.  As shown by these two disease processes, loss of sensation in the foot is a major problem that should always be evaluated by your podiatrist.

Please visit www.ColumbusFoot.com for more information or call 614-885 FEET (3338) to schedule an appointment with a podiatrist in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus Podiatry & Surgery is located on the North side of Columbus, Ohio near Worthington.

By Dr. Animesh (Andy) Bhatia