More awareness on clubfoot can help children overcome this disability

Deformity, a bodily malformation or disfigurement, when not attended to becomes a lifelong disability limiting a person’s movement and activities. People with disabilities are among the most marginalised groups in the world. They have poor health , lower educational achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty. Therefore, there is an urgent need to address the issue of deformity.

Clubfoot is one of the most common birth deformities. Children born with this condition have malformation of one or both feet. The feet are twisted inwards so that the top of the foot is where the bottom should be and the foot is bent in the middle.

Clubfoot can be mild or severe and all cases require treatment. It will not resolve on its own. Treatment should begin immediately on diagnosis, preferably within the first week of life.

The Ponseti method is effective in the treatment of clubfoot. It involves two main stages:

Casting — Here the newborn’s foot is manipulated to correct the condition and a long-leg plaster used to maintain the correction. The treatment continues for 4 to 6 weeks, one plaster cast per week. The final cast stays on for 3 weeks. Casting begun at a later stage may be more difficult because the ligaments contract further and the joints become deformed.

Clubfoot Abduction Braces — After the casting period is over, special shoes are provided to the child to be worn for three years. For the first 3 months, the brace is to be worn for 23 hours a day and for the remaining period only during the night and during nap time.

In India around 50,000 children are born with clubfoot every year. The condition cannot be prevented, but fortunately it can be treated. If the treatment is started at an early stage the child can be saved from lifetime disability. However, it must be remembered that a clubfoot will never be a normal foot. This article is an effort to sensitise people to eradicating disability due to clubfoot. Free treatment for clubfoot is available at CURE clubfoot clinics.

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The writer is a Remedial Educator