Now that the weather is starting to warm up, you will have your children in slippers and sandals more often. This may be the best time to notice the way your child walks, and to observe their feet.
Even before your child starts to walk, you should observe their feet. Do they look “normal” to you? If you notice your baby’s feet turning in more than usual, or turning out excessively, you should consult your pediatrician and podiatric physician immediately. Some severe foot deformities, if caught early can be treated, preventing further complications when the child’s foot matures.
From birth to age 1, the foot grows tremendously. During this time, any abnormal pressure placed on the foot can lead to a deformity. The bones of the foot are very soft and moldable. While your child in still in the crib, make sure to allow them to move around freely, especially allow the feet to move freely. Try not to keep your child in one position for too long. In order to allow the foot to grow normally, you must try to limit your child’s shoe wear, unless you are going outside of home. At home, keep your child’s foot in socks, or even barefoot. Excessive shoe wear can restrict growth and can place abnormal pressures on the foot bones, preventing them from growing normally.
When your child begins to walk, watch for their feet turning in while they walk or turning out excessively. Your podiatrist will be able to tell you where the deformity may be coming from. If caught early enough, bracing, orthotics, and casting can be used to correct the deformity. More severe deformities need surgical intervention.
Some common foot problems that you can encounter and that you should look for are:
1. Ingrown toenails which need to be treated immediately, before they result in an infection.
2. Warts, which children pick up on the soles of their feet. Warts are caused by a virus. There are various treatment options which your podiatrist can go over with you.
3. Metatarsus adductus, which is when the foot bends abnormally from the arch of the foot towards to toes. This can normally be corrected with just casting or orthotics, depending on the age of the child and the severity of the deformity.
4. Toe walking can be caused by several conditions. A mild condition can be corrected with stretching, and physical therapy. If the toe walking is persistent and cannot be treated with therapy or exercises, other causes of the toe walking have to be evaluated. These include neuromuscular deformities, including Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Limb length discrepancies, and a short Achilles tendon.
5. In-toeing is when the toes point inwards while your child walks instead of pointing straight ahead. In-toeing can cause the child to trip and fall excessively. If this lasts until the child is 1 ½ to 2 years old, you should seek medical attention. You podiatrist can evaluate the severity of the problem, and can suggest various treatment options, including orthotics or casting.
6. Out-toeing is not as common as in-toeing. Out-toeing is when the toes point outwards while your child walks. At about the age of 2 you may notice a sight out-toeing of your child as part of the normal development. If this out-toeing is excessive, it can also be treated if caught early.
There are many other deformities of the foot which can be found in children. These are less common and are more severe than the deformities listed above. These include deformities such as clubfoot and vertical talus.
If you notice any abnormality of the foot or ankle in your child, or if your child has pain, and trips and falls a great deal while walking, then it may be a good idea to see your pediatrician as well as your podiatrist for evaluation.
Early diagnosis and treatment of a foot deformity in children is essential for normal growth of a child foot.
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