Clubfoot is a general condition used to describe congenital foot abnormalities that are found during prenatal exams or at birth. It typically causes the baby’s foot to be twisted out of shape or abnormally out of position. In most cases of congenital clubfoot, the connective tissues and their relationship to the muscles, the underlying bones and many of the critical tendons of the lower leg are shorter than usual.
It’s worth noting that clubfoot can be a somewhat common birth defect for an otherwise healthy newborn. It is not immediately a birth defect that can be related to other long-term physical or mental health issues. Though it can certainly harm your baby when they are learning to walk and can impact their quality of life if not treated as soon as possible.
Clubfoot can range from mild to severe. Though roughly 50% of babies born with clubfoot have it in both feet, each foot can have its own varying level of severity. This means your child can have a severe case of clubfoot on the right foot and a mild case of clubfoot on the left. Though one thing is for sure, the clubfoot needs to be addressed as soon as possible to maximize the chances of treatment success.
How Soon To Start Treatment For Clubfoot?
An unaddressed clubfoot will certainly make it harder for your child to learn how to walk normally, so doctors generally recommend treating it soon after birth. Thankfully, most experienced physicians who specialize in clubfoot are typically able to treat it successfully without surgery. Though some severe cases might need surgical intervention, and even mild cases of clubfoot might require minor corrective surgery later in life.
What Are The Symptoms Of Clubfoot?
There are different variations of clubfoot and different severities. A lot of cases are detected during prenatal diagnostics, though some cases of clubfoot aren’t immediately found until birth. Some of the more common variations of clubfoot in a baby include deformations where:
The top of the baby’s foot is awkwardly twisted downward and/or inward. This tends to increase the arch of the foot, which also causes the baby’s heel to turn inward.
In a severe case of clubfoot, the baby’s foot might be turned so severely that it actually looks as if it’s upside down.
In some cases of clubfoot, the affected leg or just the foot itself might be slightly shorter. This can sometimes be addressed with corrective shoes if the deviation is minor.
A lot of cases of clubfoot also cause the relative calf muscles and the muscles of the affected lower leg to be usually underdeveloped.
Is Clubfoot Painful for a Baby?
One minor relief when it comes to clubfoot is that it doesn’t appear to be immediately painful for a baby. Though it can cause discomfort based on clothing and footwear choices. In a more severe case of clubfoot full length, “Footie” pajamas might cause distress for your baby. As they get ready to walk it can be difficult, if not impossible to find comfortable shoes for your baby.
These are just some of the main reasons why so many pediatricians and orthopedic specialists recommend treating clubfoot as soon as possible after birth.
When To See A Doctor For Clubfoot
Most of the time, your OB GYN or pediatrician will notice clubfoot either before or soon after your child is born. They can advise you on the most appropriate treatment or refer you to a doctor who specializes in bone and muscle conditions, such as a pediatric orthopedist. If you didn’t have your baby at a hospital and they are born with clubfoot, you should contact a pediatrician as soon as possible after the birth to set up an orthopedic consult as part of the first well-child examination. They can then provide you with any necessary referrals.
What Causes Clubfoot?
The underlying cause of clubfoot is idiopathic and still unknown. However, it appears to be both a combination of genetics and the environment. This can include genetics, a family history of congenital bone defects in the spine and lower body, as well as maternal care during pregnancy
What Are Genetic Risk Factors For Clubfoot?
It’s worth noting that males are about twice as likely to develop clubfoot than females are. A family history of clubfoot in either parent’s family can also increase a child’s risk of developing clubfoot in the womb.
At the same time, some congenital conditions that cause abnormalities in skeletal structure can also increase the risk of that person’s baby developing clubfoot. This includes conditions such as spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t develop properly or don’t close completely.
What Are Environmental Risk Factors For Clubfoot?
There are several environmental risk factors related to maternal care that can increase the likelihood of your child developing clubfoot in the womb. Smoking during pregnancy is one of the most significant risk factors for a baby’s risk of clubfoot. Other issues like alcohol consumption and drug use can also increase the risk of your baby developing clubfoot.
A reduced amount of amniotic fluid during pregnancy can also increase the risk of your baby developing clubfoot. This is the cushioning nutrient fluid that surrounds the baby in the womb that may increase the risk of clubfoot.
Complications Caused By Clubfoot
Early in a child’s life clubfoot causes few complications. Though an increasing number of problems start to arise when your child starts to stand and walk. This can go beyond just mobility and balance. Flexibility issues can be exacerbated if your child’s clubfoot causes a disparity in leg length.
Clubfoot can also make it difficult to find comfortable fitting shoes, and the affected foot can be 1 to 2 shoe sizes smaller than the normal foot. Though a physician might be able to provide you with special orthotic inserts to help minimize these complications. Calf size can also affect balance and mobility for the child as they develop and limit the number of exercises they can do or sports that they can participate in.
Left untreated clubfoot can also put your child at risk for arthritis. It can also lead to issues with poor self-image. This can become a major concern during the teenage years.