A growing number of diabetics are being diagnosed with a debilitating foot deformity called Charcot foot. Charcot foot often confines patients to wheelchairs, and in severe cases can require amputation.

Charcot foot typically occurs in morbidly obese diabetics who have neuropathy (nerve damage), which impairs the ability to feel foot pain. Charcot foot usually develops following a minor injury, such as a sprain or stress fracture. Because the patient doesn't feel the injury, he or she continues to walk, making the injury worse. Bones fracture, joints collapse and the foot becomes deformed. The patient walks on the side of the foot and develops pressure sores. Bones can become infected.

In the United States, 29.1 million people (9.3 percent of the population) have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The growing number of diabetics, combined with the obesity epidemic, is increasing the incidence of Charcot foot. Excess weight increases the risk of diabetic neuropathy. Obesity also increases the risk that patients with diabetic neuropathy will develop Charcot foot.

There has been an alarming increase in morbid obesity among diabetics. About 62 percent of U.S. adults with Type 2 diabetes are obese, and 21 percent are morbidly obese, according to a study in the Journal of Diabetes and its Complications.

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