DOHA: Experts at the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) say that parents play an important role in early detection and diagnosis of flat foot conditions among children.
Dr Mohammed Al Sharani, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at HMC says that an easy home diagnosis is the ‘wet footprint’ test. Performed by wetting the feet in water and then standing on a smooth surface such as heavy paper, if almost the entire footprint is visual, it usually means the entire sole of the foot has made contact and is an indicator of flat foot conditions.
Flat foot conditions are common among children under the age of three years. The condition often disappears before the age of five but symptoms may continue to affect some children long term, causing severe pain and health problems if not treated properly.
Parents should notice if their child’s shoes erode from the inner side. They should also ask their child if he or she feels pain in the feet or legs or if the child experiences difficulty while walking or running. If a flat foot condition is suspected, an X-ray can be used to check the bone structure and determine the optimal treatment, says Dr Al Sharani.
He also recommends that children diagnosed with flat foot conditions complete specific exercises, or wear special medical corrective shoes, in order to help them walk properly and prevent pain.
“Flat foot conditions are characterised by the absence of a foot arch, causing the whole body weight to be placed on the foot and the weak mid-foot area. The condition results in severe pain in the foot arch and ankle and often gradually starts to cause pain in the legs, knees and back. It may also cause difficulties and pain when standing, walking or running due to problems in the biomechanics of the lower leg,” said Dr Al Sharani.
Having a fully developed foot arch is important to maintaining balance. However, the appearance of flat feet is normal and common in infants under the age of two years due to the thick layer of baby fat present in the foot arch of infants. Low arches are also considered normal in babies under the age of two years.
“There are two types of flat foot conditions; the flexible flat foot and the rigid flat foot. Flexible flat foot condition is identified when the child shows ability to move the foot in all directions. The child can develop this condition with no clear reason or as a result of neuromuscular diseases that affect the foot. In most cases seen in Qatar, flexible flat foot is associated with the relaxation and the loosening of the ligaments. Unlike a flexible flat foot, a rigid flat foot is characterised by a limited ability to move the foot. It is often the result of a problem affecting the structure or the alignment of the bones that make up the foot’s arch, such as infections or congenital deformities in the bones of the foot,” Dr Al Sharani added.