Diabetes can be a devastating disease. There are a lot of things that physicians are well trained to look for in the diabetic patient. There are other conditions that are not well known or understood. A condition known as “Diabetic Charcot Arthropathy” is often misdiagnosed. I bring this up because, in the past 2 months, I’ve had two patients present with similar symptoms which turned out to be Charcot disease. It is now a fight to save their leg and early detection could have prevented that. So all of you diabetics out there, pay attention!
Each patient had the same symptoms. First, they were diabetic and had severe neuropathy (so no feeling in the feet). One day, they noticed an increase in swelling on one of their feet, ankle, and leg. The limb was also warm to touch and red. However, there wasn’t any ulcer or open wound on the foot or ankle. They went to the hospital and the blood work was overall normal. They were still put on antibiotics and were diagnosed with infections (cellulitis). Over the next month or so, the redness and warmth went away but the limb was still swollen and the foot appeared to be flattening out. And that’s when they showed up in my office.
Charcot disease is not well understood but what we think happens is that a patients nerves can’t control the blood flow to the feet very well and increased blood flow “wash’s out” the bones and they begin to collapse. Just think of water flowing down a white wash here in New Mexico. What happens to the sides of the white wash? They erode and a similar thing can happen to your bones.
If Charcot is caught BEFORE the bones start to collapse, 10-12 weeks of no weight on the affected foot can save it from collapse. After collapse, 50% of patients will lose their leg within 5 years. So as you can see, it is imperative that this is caught early.
So, if you’re diabetic and have little or no feeling in your feet, if one foot/ankle/leg swells up and is red, hot, and there is no evidence of any cut or wound, this could be Charcot Disease. Call us and we’ll get you in fast. Sure, it may be infection and a trip to the hospital. But Charcot needs to be ruled out. A couple months in a cast could save your leg!
Don’t Live Life In Pain! Call us at 505.880.1000 today to make an appointment.
By Jonathan Williamson, DPM