Club foot, medically known as talipes equinovarus, is a congenital condition affecting the foot. Children born with club foot have drawn up heels, downward pointed toes, and feet with high arches. The affected feet or foot may also have a crease along the sole. In addition, the heel of a person with club foot is generally pointed away from the body, making it twist in toward the other foot.
In addition to a difference in the appearance of the foot or feet, a child born with club foot may exhibit other physical symptoms. For example, his or her leg and foot may be smaller than other children of the same size. The calf muscle may also be small, and the foot may seem stiff and somewhat immobile.
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Approximately one in 1,000 births in the United States and United Kingdom result in a child with club foot. In addition, the condition affects twice as many males then females. Approximately 50% of club foot cases affect both feet, and the condition may be barely noticeable or quite severe.
Other conditions that are similar to club foot include metatarsus adductus and calcaneovalgus. Each of these conditions, however, are caused by the position of the fetus in the womb and are generally quite easy to correct. Club foot, on the other hand, requires intense intervention and affects the tendons, joints, and ligaments.
If club foot is not treated, the child’s walking can be adversely affected. He or she will walk on the foot’s outer surface and will experience a greater amount of hard skin, corns, and ingrown toenails. Club foot also causes an abnormal walking pattern and makes it difficult to purchase comfortably fitting shoes. For these reasons, club foot should never be ignored in the hope that it will reverse itself. Rather, a doctor should be consulted immediately and the child should be placed on a treatment plan.
A common treatment for club foot is to place a cast on the feet and legs. This is most effective when done on the first day of the child’s life or within a few weeks after birth. This method twists and pushes the child's feet into the proper position. Therefore, it can be quite uncomfortable for the child. In addition, the cast must be changed approximately every two weeks.
Surgery is another option for club foot. This course of action is generally recommended for children who are about six months old. Physiotherapy, which involves frequent visits to a therapist in order to manipulate and tape the foot in the proper position, is sometimes used for children who are three months old.