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What Is Talipes Varus?

Talipes varus may be caused by the position of the fetus while inside of the womb.
Lord Byron suffered from talipes varus.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 10 August 2014
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Talipes varus, also known as talipes equinovarus or clubfoot, is a very common congenital deformity of the foot where the limb is twisted so people appear to be walking on the ankle or the outer edge of the sole. It is very treatable, especially when caught early, and most people born with this condition are provided with intervention shortly after birth to address it. Some very notable individuals including Olympic skater Kristi Yamaguchi and poet Lord Byron were born with a talipes varus deformity.

There are several potential causes for this condition. One is genetic disorders including skeletal and connective tissue disorders. These can cause abnormal development in a fetus and may lead to a talipes varus deformity, along with other medical issues. Other cases are believed to be positional, caused by the way the fetus sits in the womb. When the baby is delivered, the inward turn of the feet will be clearly visible, and it may be difficult or impossible to fully straighten the foot due to shortened tendons.

Conservative treatment involves the use of stretches, physical therapy, casting, and supportive footwear to slowly pull the foot back into alignment. This may not always be an option, as in cases where there is a clear skeletal deformity, no amount of physical therapy will be effective. The other option is surgery to realign the foot and correct deformities, if needed. After surgery, physical therapy will be used to develop muscle strength and tone, keeping the foot and ankle in alignment.

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Male infants are more likely than girls to have a talipes varus deformity. In either case, treatment can be very successful and the person may go on to have no additional foot and ankle problems. As illustrated in Kristi Yamaguchi's case, this birth defect is not an obstacle to pursuing an athletic career, for example, and children with a talipes varus deformity do not usually lag behind their peers in terms of physical development and the acquisition of skills like crawling and toddling.

Sometimes, this condition is seen in association with other medical issues. People with more complex genetic conditions may need followup and treatment for these problems even after the talipes varus deformity has been addressed. For people with genetic disorders, thorough evaluation is needed to determine the extent of the disorder and make recommendations for care and treatment, as these disorders tend to manifest slightly differently, depending on a number of factors.

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