When asked “So are you hoping it’s a boy or girl?” many parents express wishes that the baby is simply born healthy. As such, it can be concerning when an infant enters this world with clubfoot. No one wants to know that an infant has a condition that could potentially make things harder later in life, but the good news is that the majority of babies who receive proper treatment for clubfoot at an early stage grow up to lead normal, active lives.
An Introduction to Clubfoot
The term “clubfoot” actually refers to a range of abnormalities that entail feet being twisted in an unusual fashion. One key commonality is that the condition is congenital (present at birth). Another is that the baby’s foot has an unusual shape or position due to twisting. This is often the result of tendons—tissue that connects bones and muscles—being shorter than normal. The name of the condition stems from the fact that affected feet are often positioned at sharp angles to the ankle in such a manner that they resemble the head of a golf club.
As with other congenital issues, symptoms of clubfoot can range in severity. Roughly half of children born with this deformity have it in both feet. It is better to seek early treatment, because uncorrected clubfoot would make normal walking quite difficult.
The causes of clubfoot are a bit of mystery. We do know that it is not caused by positioning in the womb. There can be an association with a condition known as spina bifida, but this is not usually the case. Maternal smoking has been linked to this deformity, but, again, this is not always the reason for it.
Symptoms of Clubfoot
Many signs of this birth defect are apparent in the appearance of the baby’s limbs. Some of the characteristics of note include:
- Top of the foot twisted inwards and downwards
- A severe turn to the point that the foot appears to be upside down
- Underdeveloped calf muscles in the affected leg
- An affected foot being roughly half an inch shorter than the other one
Given that the child’s bones and tissues are soft and pliable, clubfoot does not actually cause pain or discomfort to the baby.
Treatment for Clubfoot
The aim of treatment methods for clubfoot is to improve the condition of the child’s foot before he or she starts learning how to walk. There is hope of preventing any long-term disability and the best way for this to happen is early treatment.
The most common method for treating clubfoot is a technique of stretching and casting known as the Ponseti method. The process for this entails:
- Guiding the baby’s foot closer to the proper position and then holding it in there with the use of a cast
- Repositioning and recasting the affected foot once or twice weekly over the course of several months
- Performing minor surgical procedures to lengthen the Achilles tendon
Following the realignment of the baby’s foot, parents have to do their part to maintain the work done with the following steps:
- Performing stretching exercises with the baby
- Placing the young child in braces and special shoes
- Ensuring that shoes and braces are used for the recommended time periods
Surgery for Clubfoot
In severe cases, or when an affected limb does not respond properly to conservative treatment, invasive surgery may become necessary. Orthopedic surgeons can ease the deformed foot into a better position by lengthening tendons. Following the procedure, the child will need to wear a cast for up to two months before wearing a brace for the next year as a measure to keep the clubfoot from recurring.
Effective Child Foot Care in Lancaster, SC
When your child has any foot or ankle issues, Carolina Podiatry Group is ready to help. Our staff wants to ensure that he or she is able to lead a normal, pain-free life, so contact us if your child has any issues so we can provide the needed care. Contact our Lancaster, SC office at (803) 285-1411 or our Indian Land office at (803) 548-FEET (3338). You can also use our website to schedule an appointment at any of our locations.