Charcot Foot; Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

Charcot foot is a progressive condition that involves the gradual weakening of bones, joints, and soft tissues of the foot or ankle.

Other Names

  • Charcot foot and ankle
  • Charcot Arthropathy
  • Charcot Neuro-Arthropathy (CN)

What causes Charcot foot?

Charcot foot is caused by an unperceived trauma or injury to an insensate foot; that is a foot where the sensations are reduced due to either diabetic peripheral neuropathy or peripheral neuropathy due to any other causes. There is progressive destruction of bones and joints as the affected person continues to walk despite the trauma or microtrauma. Also, the other changes in the nervous system due to uncontrolled diabetes result in autonomic neuropathy-which results in an increase in the blood supply to the affected foot causing inflammation, increased bone resorption leading to osteopenia and osteoporosis which further causes a cascade of bone destruction from microtrauma and continued ambulation. The bone and joint changes eventually lead to a deformed foot with altered biomechanics, excessive strain on the weight-bearing portions of the foot and skin breakdown causing diabetic foot ulcers, and diabetic foot infection as a result. 

Symptoms of Charcot Foot

  • Redness in the foot
  • Swelling
  • Pain or soreness
  • Feel warmth to the touch (the affected foot feels warmer than the other)
  • Loss of normal foot arches
  • Thickening of the skin of weight bearing portion of the foot
  • Deformity or changes in the shape of the foot
  • Ulceration or skin breakdown


  • Clinical Examination (Foot examination)
  • Laboratory assessment
    1. Imaging Studies
    2. X-ray, Doppler scan,
    3. Nuclear isotopic scan,
    4. MRI


Charcot foot is treated Non-Surgically as well as Surgically 

Non-surgical treatment

  • Diabetic Control
  • Medicines to improve neuropathy
  • Medicines to improve bone strength
  • Immobilization
  • CROW (Charcot Restraint Orthotic Walker) or AFO (Ankle Foot Orthosis)
  • Custom shoes and bracing
  • Activity modification

Surgical treatment

  • Deformity correction
  • Arthrodesis/ Fusion
  • Osteotomies
  • Tendon transfer

Preventive Care

  • Get regular checkups with a podiatrist
  • Check both feet every day
  • Take control over diabetes 
  • Wash your feet every day.
  • Always wear socks and shoes
  • Avoid foot injuries