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What Is Charcot Foot?

Charcot foot is a pattern of bone and joint damage that can lead to foot deformity. Charcot foot begins with peripheral neuropathy, a disease of the nerves in the feet. Because your nerves don't function well, you may not feel pain when you injure your foot. You may break bones or damage joints without knowing it. If you keep walking on your injured foot, fractures can heal unevenly. This causes foot deformity. With Charcot foot, minor fractures can lead to major problems if not treated early.

Charcot foot may also be called diabetic foot. That's because diabetes is a leading cause of neuropathy in the feet.

Acute Charcot foot

Acute Charcot foot begins when repeated small fractures aren't felt and therefore not protected. At first, there may be no visible signs of Charcot foot. If you keep walking, fractures become worse. Your foot may feel hot and look red and swollen.

To prevent foot problems, carefully look at both of your feet every day. This includes looking between the toes and at the bottom of your feet.. Use a long-handled mirror to make it easier to see all of the areas. It's important to control your blood sugar levels to help prevent foot problems.

Get medical care right away if you see any changes in your feet or if you're having problems controlling your blood sugar levels. Getting care can help your healthcare provider find Charcot foot earlier and help prevent problems.


Fractures begin to heal as Charcot foot progresses. But pressure from your body weight keeps bones from mending smoothly. Continued walking can cause new fractures. Your foot may still be red and swollen.

Chronic Charcot foot

Chronic Charcot foot is deformity resulting from poor bone healing. Shoes may not fit the deformed foot. Chafing from a poorly fitting shoe can cause ulcers (open sores). Ulcers may become infected. Severe infection may require amputation.

Man sitting on edge of bed looking at sole of foot with mirror.

Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph Campellone MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2021
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