Posted by Fiona Cole on May 5, 2011
The list of birth defects linked to the use of antidepressant medications such as Pristiq, Celexa and Lexapro includes a foot defect known as clubfoot. Clubfoot is among the more common birth defects. In the United States, approximately 1 in 1,000 babies are born with clubfoot each year, with milder foot defects being even more common. Boys are twice as likely as girls to be born with this foot defect.
Clubfoot means that one or both of the baby’s feet turn downward and inward. Babies who are born with both feet affected account for about 50 percent of all clubfoot cases. If both of the feet are affected, the soles of the baby’s feet may face one another. Abnormalities can be seen in the ankle joints, the foot bones and the ligaments and muscles of the feet. Like many birth defects, clubfoot can range from being mild to severe.
Clubfoot is not a painful condition for the baby until it is time to stand up and start walking. If it is left untreated, normal movement of the foot will be restricted. If only one of the baby’s feet is affected, the normal leg will undergo the strain of having to compensate, and the leg affected by clubfoot will not develop to an equal size. If both of the baby’s feet are affected, the child will not be able to walk on the soles of the feet and will be forced to walk on the sides of the feet and sometimes even the top of the foot instead. This in turn leads to complications such as calluses on the feet and inflammation of the joints.
Any birth defect is a cause for worry and concern. Fortunately, clubfoot is treatable and usually has very good outcomes. An experienced orthopedic surgeon will be able to provide guidance on treatment options. Advances in non-surgical approaches, such as the use of manipulation, taping, casts and splints, now means that most babies born with clubfoot can be treated without major surgery and successful correction often occurs in 2 to 3 months.
Early treatment is key — ideally in the first few weeks of the baby’s life when the tendons and ligaments are very soft and easier to work with. But studies suggest that good outcomes with non-surgical interventions are also possible with children who are older than a year.
With successful treatment, even babies with more serious cases of clubfoot will grow up to be able to wear normal shoes and live full, active lives. Generally, the affected foot will be around one shoe size smaller than the unaffected foot, and the calf may be slightly slimmer. But the good news is that these minimal differences do not impact function.