Is Charcot Foot Hereditary?

Charcot Foot Hereditary
If you have diabetes and peripheral neuropathy, you face the possibility of developing Charcot Foot. The condition attacks the joints and soft tissues of your feet, weakening your bones. But, what you might not know is Charcot Foot is also hereditary.

While there are many genetic mutations associated with Charcot Foot, treatment options are available. Talk with your doctor to determine if and what type of Charcot Foot you might have.

How common is Charcot Foot?

According to Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy, Charcot Foot affects approximately 1 in every 2,500 Americans, totaling roughly 125,000 people. Over time, it can cause painful sores and change the shape of your foot.

What causes it?

Mutations in the genes that control the structure and function of the nerves outside your brain and spinal cord, called your peripheral nerves, cause Charcot Foot. As it progresses, the nerves degenerate and lose the ability to communicate, leading to muscle weakness and atrophy, as well as a reduced ability to feel cold, heat, and pain.

What’s the impact?

There are five main types of hereditary Charcot Foot. Some affect the fatty covering over your nerves, called myelin, that protects and helps cells transmit impulses. Others directly affect your nerves, causing muscle weakness and atrophy.

Ultimately, they all result is the same types of outcomes. Charcot Foot can be prompted by an injury that isn’t treated in a timely fashion, leading your arch to drop below your toes to create a “rocker bottom.” Your foot can become reddish, warm to the touch, or swollen. Additionally, your toes can curl, and your ankle can twist. The misshapen bones can press against your shoes to create sores and ulcers that can get infected and potentially lead to amputation.

Be sure to work with an orthopedist, podiatrist, or foot center that specializes in diabetes care to manage your Charcot Foot.

How can you treat it?

Even though you may not be able to stop all symptoms associated with Charcot Foot, you can treat it. Follow these steps to minimize the impact.

  1. Get regular check-ups with a foot doctor who has experience treating diabetic foot problems.
  2. Check your feet daily for swelling, redness, warm spots, and sores. Check between your toes, too.
  3. Wash your feet daily, and dry them thoroughly.
  4. Always wear socks and shoes.
  5. Keep your blood sugar levels under control — between 80-130 mg/dL before eating, under 180 mg/dL after.
  6. Take extra care to avoid injury, particularly while exercising.
  7. Strictly immobilize your foot or ankle with a cast if recommended by your doctor.
  8. Practice non-weight bearing measure to alleviate stress on your foot.

For more information about hereditary Charcot Foot, contact the Amputation Prevention Centers of America.

What is Autonomic Neuropathy?

Autonomic Neuropathy
One of the hallmark conditions that can occur with diabetes is neuropathy, a misfire in the nerves that impacts feeling and function. There are several types that can affect your body in different ways, but one version — autonomic neuropathy — affects the background functions of your body. That makes getting an accurate diagnosis critical.

What is autonomic neuropathy?

Autonomic neuropathy, also called dysautonomia, affects the nerves that control your involuntary bodily functions. When these nerves are damaged it impacts your blood pressure, temperature control, digestion, and bladder function.

The problems occur because the nerve damage makes it harder for your brain to send messages to your organs and parts of the autonomic nervous system, including your blood vessels, heart, and sweat glands.

What symptoms are common?

The symptoms you experience are directly tied to the part of your autonomic nervous system affected by the neuropathy. Pay attention to these symptoms, and talk with your doctor if they appear.

  • Dizziness and fainting when standing
  • Urinary problems, including incontinence, difficulty starting or sensing a full bladder, and an inability to empty your bladder.
  • Digestive problems, including feeling full after only a few bites, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and heartburn.
  • Lack of signs of low blood sugar, such as shaking.
  • Sweating too much or too little, making it harder to regulate your body temperature.
  • Difficulty adjusting your eyes from light to dark.

How is autonomic neuropathy treated?

There are several things you can do to treat your symptoms and minimize the impact. Consider these steps:

  • If you experience nausea or feel full after eating small amounts, work with a dietician to plan your meals.
  • Take medications to accelerate your digestion and reduce diarrhea.

Preventive steps

Slowing the progression of autonomic neuropathy is possible, and it can greatly minimize your symptoms. To limit the impact of the condition as much as you can, follow these tips:

  • Control your blood sugar. Keep it between 80-130 mg/dL before eating and under 180 mg/dL after.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking.
  • Get appropriate treatment for any autoimmune disease.
  • Control your blood pressure, keeping it below 130/80.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly, shooting for at least 30 minutes of exercise five times weekly. Biking, running, walking, or swimming are good options.

Making a few lifestyle changes can also lead to improvements:

  • Posture changes: Stand up slowly to decrease dizziness. Tense your leg muscles when standing to increase your blood pressure.
  • Elevate the bed: If you have low blood pressure, raise the head of your bed by approximately 4 inches.
  • Digestion: Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Increase fluids. Choose low-fat, high-fiber options, and restrict lactose and gluten.

If you suspect you have autonomic neuropathy, consult your doctor immediately, particularly if your diabetes isn’t well controlled. Even more, you’ll likely be screened for autonomic neuropathy every year after you receive your diagnosis if you have Type 2 Diabetes.

Contact the Amputation Prevention Centers of America if you have any questions.