Charcot's joints

Charcot's Joints



Charcot's joints is a progressive degenerative disease of the joints caused by nerve damage resulting in the loss of ability to feel pain in the joint and instability of the joint.


Charcot's joints, also called neuropathic joint disease, is the result of two conditions present in the joint. The first factor is the inability to feel pain in the joint due to nerve damage. The second factor is that injuries to the joint go unnoticed leading to instability and making the joint more susceptible to further injury. Repeated small injuries, strains and even fractures can go unnoticed until finally the joint is permanently destroyed. Loss of the protective sensation of pain is what leads to the disintegration of the joint and often leads to deformity in the joint.
Although this condition can affect any joint, the knee is the joint most commonly involved. In individuals with diabetes mellitus, the foot is most commonly affected. The disease can involve only one joint or it may affect two or three joints. More than three affected joints is very rare. In all cases, the specific joint(s) affected depends on the location of the nerve damage.

Causes and symptoms

Many diseases and injuries can interfere with the ability to feel pain. Conditions such as diabetes mellitus, spinal injuries and diseases, alcoholism, and even syphilis can all lead to a loss of the ability to feel pain in some areas. Lack of pain sensation may also be congenital.
The symptoms of Charcot's joints can go unnoticed for some time and may be confused with osteoarthritis in the beginning. Swelling and stiffness in a joint without the expected pain, or with less pain than would be expected, are the primary symptoms of this condition. As the condition progresses, however, the joint can become very painful due to fluid build-up and bony growths.


Charcot's joints is suspected when a person with a disease that impairs pain sensation exhibits painless swelling and/or stiffness in a joint. Standard x rays will show damage to the joint, and may also show abnormal bone growth and calcium deposits. Floating bone fragments from previous injuries may also be visible.


In the early stages of Charcot's joints, braces to stabilize the joints can help stop or minimize the damage. When the disease has progressed beyond braces, surgery can sometimes repair the joint. If the damage is extensive, an artificial joint may be necessary.


Treatment of the disease causing loss of pain perception may help to slow the damage to the joints.


Preventing or effectively managing the underlying disease can slow or in some cases reverse joint damage, but the condition cannot be prevented.



Resnick, Donald. Diagnosis of Bone and Joint Disorders. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Co., 1994.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Charcot's joints

Joints rendered anaesthetic by disease which are, in consequence, vulnerable and suffer damage from repeated injury. Charcot's joints may be caused by many agencies including SYPHILIS, DIABETES, LEPROSY, spinal cord tumour, SYRINGOMYELIA, SUBACUTE COMBINED DEGENERATION OF THE CORD, and steroid injections into the joints. (Jean-Martin Charcot, 1825–1893, French neurologist).
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Skin injuries, bone fractures, chronic oeteomylistis and Charcot's joints are the common presentations.
Neuroarthropathy is a severe destructive form of degenerative arthritis resulting from loss of sensation in the involved joints, called as Charcot's joints or diabetic osteoarthropathy.
Although Jean-Martin Charcot described the neurological joint in 1883, the exact etiology of Charcot's joints remains unclear.
Since the affected vessels may be larger, less superficial ones (especially in the thigh), such an overload may not manifest any of the warmth and erythema necessarily associated with Charcot's joint. There is nonetheless dramatic soft tissue swelling, not necessarily related to a specific joint, with the confusing prospect of spontaneous resolution.
Charcot's joints are typically seen in patients over the age of 50 who have had diabetes for many years and have existing neuropathic complications.