Understanding Charcot Foot: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

What is Charcot Foot?

Charcot foot, also known as Charcot arthropathy, is a condition that affects the bones, joints, and soft tissues in the feet. It is a complication of diabetes that can lead to the weakening of the bones, joints, and soft tissues, causing deformities, instability, and an increased risk of ulcers and amputations.

Causes of Charcot Foot

Charcot foot is caused by nerve damage, which is common in people with diabetes. This nerve damage, known as neuropathy, can be due to various factors such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Nerve damage from other health conditions
  • Infections
  • Spinal cord disease or injury
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • HIV
  • Syphilis
  • Other health conditions

Symptoms of Charcot Foot

The symptoms of Charcot foot can be subtle and may not be immediately noticeable. However, as the condition progresses, the following symptoms may appear:

  • Redness and swelling in the foot and ankle
  • Warmth or heat in the affected area
  • Loss of feeling in the feet and ankles
  • Pain or discomfort in the foot and ankle
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Deformities such as rocker-bottom foot or curled toes
  • Open sores or ulcers
  • Infections

Stages of Charcot Foot

Charcot foot progresses through three stages:

  1. Stage One: Fragmentation and Destruction
    • This acute, initial stage is marked by significant swelling and redness in the foot and ankle. Internally, soft tissue swelling and small bone fractures destroy the joints and surrounding bone.
  2. Stage Two: Fragmentation and Reconstruction
    • In this stage, the bones and joints continue to weaken, leading to dislocation and collapse. The foot may take on a flat or rocker-bottomed appearance.
  3. Stage Three: Reconstruction and Stabilization
    • In this final stage, the foot and ankle are stabilized through surgery or other treatments. The goal is to prevent further damage and promote healing.

Treatment of Charcot Foot

The treatment of Charcot foot involves several steps:

  • Conservative Treatment
    • Resting the foot to reduce stress and prevent further damage
    • Using orthotics and shoe inserts to support the foot
    • Managing blood sugar levels to prevent further nerve damage
    • Physical therapy to improve mobility and reduce pain
  • Surgical Treatment
    • Realignment or fusion of bones to stabilize the foot
    • Smoothing of sharp bones to prevent further damage
    • Repair of damaged soft tissues

How Can a Bone Growth Stimulator Help?

Bone growth stimulators can be used in the acute phase of Charcot's foot to promote bone healing and consolidation. Electrical stimulation has been investigated as a treatment for Charcot arthropathy, and studies have shown that the use of an implantable bone growth stimulator in conjunction with rigid internal fixation, autogenous bone grafting, and sound operative technique may enhance the outcome and fusion rate in patients undergoing arthrodesis for Charcot neuroarthropathy of the ankle and hindfoot.


Charcot foot is a serious complication of diabetes that requires prompt and effective treatment. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and stages of the condition is crucial for managing the condition effectively. Conservative and surgical treatments can help alleviate symptoms and prevent further damage. Additionally, bone growth stimulators can be used in the acute phase to promote bone healing and consolidation. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to preventing severe complications and improving outcomes for patients with Charcot foot.


Back to blog