Rare Diabetes Foot Complication Becoming More Common

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Dr. Gerald Mauriello, Jr.

MONROE — Are you diabetic? You are at risk for a limb-threatening foot condition once rare, but now becoming common in the Northeast. As diabetes rates soar nationwide, a Monmouth County foot and ankle surgeon says he’s seeing more patients with a rare diabetic foot complication, called Charcot foot (pronounced SHAR-co).

Foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Gerald Mauriello, Jr. of the Foot and Ankle Institute of Advanced Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, says Charcot foot involves a sudden softening of the foot’s bones, which can then trigger an avalanche of problems, including joint loss, fractures, collapse of the arch, massive deformity, ulcers, amputation, and even death.

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“As the foot’s structure collapses, the bottom of the foot can become convex, bulging like the hull of a ship,” says Mauriello. “But diabetic patients frequently won’t feel any pain because they have severe nerve damage in their lower extremities.”

Mauriello says every person with diabetes should know the foot warning signs of Charcot: a red, hot, swollen foot or ankle. Several other dangerous conditions, such as deep vein thrombosis and acute infections, share these symptoms. A red, hot, swollen foot or ankle requires emergency medical care.

The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) estimates less than one percent of people with diabetes develop Charcot foot. But nationwide, the College’s 6,000 members say they’re noticing more Charcot cases as more Americans develop diabetes.

Charcot cannot be reversed, but its destructive effects can be stopped if the condition is detected early. People with diabetes play a vital role in preventing Charcot foot and its complications. Diabetes patients should keep blood sugar levels under control, which has been shown to reduce the progression of nerve damage in the feet. People with diabetes should also inspect both of their feet every day, and get regular check-ups from a foot and ankle surgeon.


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