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Club Feet: Causes and Treatments

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A congenital deformity, club foot is diagnosed at birth or during a prenatal ultrasound. It affects one out of every 1,000 babies. Although club foot can affect just one foot, around half of all patients with the deformity have it in both feet. It also occurs twice as frequently in males compared to females.

The condition is characterized by the foot turning inward. The degree of severity can range from mild to severe—sometimes the turn can be so severe that the foot appears to be facing upward or sideways.

Fortunately, with advancements in medical technology, club foot can be corrected and patients can go on to live a full and active life without worry about side effects.

What causes club foot?

In general, the cause of club foot is unknown. It was previously thought that the condition developed because the foot was stuck in the wrong position in the womb. However, now it is believed that the condition is related to genetics. During pregnancy, the fetus’ bones take shape by separating from a single mass of bone material. Clubfoot occurs when the tarsal bones located in the foot fail to separate in the womb. The tendons in the foot are also tight and short.

How does club foot affect the patient?

Without any treatment, club foot is quite a hindrance to the person it affects. Although it is not painful for an infant, it can affect the quality of life and cause pain as your child grows and starts to walk. The patient may appear to be walking on their ankles or on the sides of their feet. Walking with club feet can be very painful and can lead to leg and back problems. However, with treatments (such as surgery), a fully functional and pain-free life is possible.

How is club foot treated?

Some methods of treatment for club foot involve stretching the foot into its desired position over time with the use of a brace or a cast. Surgery can also be used to correct the deformity, which typically consists of cutting and lengthening the Achilles tendon in the heel, allowing the foot to stretch to its normal position. Treatment for club foot typically begins shortly after birth and the diagnosis.