Misdiagnosis of common foot problem reminds diabetics to be their own advocate

These days, patients are often told they need to be their own advocate. Doctors are busier than ever, and just because they have the medical degree does not necessarily mean they understand all facets of an individual’s condition. This is particularly true of people with type 2 diabetes, which can present a number of complicated symptoms.

For example, a recent commentary published in the journal Diabetes Care pointed to a complication that is relatively common among individuals with type 2 diabetes, but is often overlooked or misdiagnosed by physicians.

Charcot foot is characterized by swelling of tissue and softening of bones in the lower extremities. In many ways it is similar to osteoporosis. I can be extremely painful, make it difficult to walk and lead to numerous broken bones in the foot. It is one of the primary causes of amputations among diabetics.

Despite the severity of its symptoms, the experts writing the paper said that few doctors recognize the symptoms upon initial examination. They explained that more education on the disorder is needed in order for a large number of people to receive successful early-stage treatment.

"Even though it was first described in 1883, the diagnosis and successful treatment of Charcot foot continue to be a challenge because this syndrome is not widely known or understood by the broader medical profession," said Lee C. Rogers, DPM, who co-authored the article on behalf of the American Diabetes Association and the American Podiatric Medical Association.

He added that when the condition is accurately diagnosed early it can be treated relatively easily and successfully. However, if a doctor misinterprets its symptoms, it can lead to painful consequences, including amputation.

Aside from educating doctors about the condition, the article also underscores the importance for patients of being persistent. If an individual with type 2 diabetes notices a change in their condition, they should alert their care provider as soon as possible. Furthermore, they should continue seeking attention until they feel their problem has been adequately resolved.