The appearance of flat feet is normal and common in infants, partly due to "baby fat" which masks the developing arch and partly because the arch has not yet fully developed. The human arch develops in infancy and early childhood as part of normal muscle, tendon, ligament and bone growth. Training of the feet, especially by foot gymnastics and going barefoot on varying terrain, can facilitate the formation of arches during childhood, with a developed arch occurring for most by the age of four to six years. Flat arches in children usually become proper arches and high arches while the child progresses through adolescence and into adulthood. A survey of 297 suburban school children up to the age of 10 years at Allahabad in U.P. in India revealed 40.32% children under 5 years, 22.15% children between 5-10 years and 15.48% children above 10 years but below 15 years having bilateral flat foot.
When flat feet develop at a later age, they are known as fallen arches. The arches may fall because the muscles supporting them are no longer able to do so. In addition the spring ligament within the foot may have lost some of its tension allowing the arch of the foot to flatten. Other conditions causing fallen arches include sudden weight gain, a nervous system injury, or a loss of sensation caused by a disease such as diabetes. Most people with fallen arches are flat on both feet.
Most people do not exhibit any symptoms of flat feet, but if the condition is due to an underlying problem, symptoms can include foot pain, mainly in the arch or heel areas, difficulty standing on tiptoes, swelling that occurs on the inside of the ankle, pain in the calf, knee, hip, or lower leg area, both feet lie flat on the ground with no gap, Shoes may not fit properly, heel may tilt away from the midline of the body more than usual, absence of foot arch when standing. If you are experiencing these symptoms and have flat feet, you should consider seeing your doctor or a podiatrist immediately for an examination.
Most children and adults with flatfeet do not need to see a physician for diagnosis or treatment. However, it is a good idea to see a doctor if the feet tire easily or are painful after standing, it is difficult to move the foot around or stand on the toes, the foot aches, especially in the heel or arch, and there is swelling on the inner side of the foot, the pain interferes with activity or the person has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Most flatfeet are diagnosed during physical examination. During the exam, the foot may be wetted and the patient asked to stand on a piece of paper. An outline of the entire foot will indicate a flattened arch. Also, when looking at the feet from behind, the ankle and heel may appear to lean inward (pronation). The patient may be asked to walk so the doctor can see how much the arch flattens during walking. The doctor may also examine the patient's shoes for signs of uneven wear, ask questions about a family history of flatfeet, and inquire about known neurological or muscular diseases. Imaging tests may be used to help in the diagnosis. If there is pain or the arch does not appear when the foot is flexed, x-rays are taken to determine the cause. If tarsal coalition is suspected, computed tomography (CT scan) may be performed, and if an injury to the tendons is suspected, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) may be performed.
Non Surgical Treatment
Fallen arches lead to flat feet, where the arch of your foot collapses and may even touch the ground. This condition is common in infants and young children because your arches are still developing during childhood, says the Instep Foot Clinic. If your flat feet persist into adulthood, or the condition causes pain, a doctor or podiatrist may prescribe strengthening exercises as part of your treatment.
Surgery is typically offered as a last resort in people with significant pain that is resistant to other therapies. The treatment of a rigid flatfoot depends on its cause. Congenital vertical talus. Your doctor may suggest a trial of serial casting. The foot is placed in a cast and the cast is changed frequently to reposition the foot gradually. However, this generally has a low success rate. Most people ultimately need surgery to correct the problem. Tarsal coalition. Treatment depends on your age, extent of bone fusion and severity of symptoms. For milder cases, your doctor may recommend nonsurgical treatment with shoe inserts, wrapping of the foot with supportive straps or temporarily immobilizing the foot in a cast. For more severe cases, surgery is necessary to relieve pain and improve the flexibility of the foot. Lateral subtalar dislocation. The goal is to move the dislocated bone back into place as soon as possible. If there is no open wound, the doctor may push the bone back into proper alignment without making an incision. Anesthesia is usually given before this treatment. Once this is accomplished, a short leg cast must be worn for about four weeks to help stabilize the joint permanently. About 15% to 20% of people with lateral subtalar dislocation must be treated with surgery to reposition the dislocated bone.
Time off work depends on the type of work as well as the surgical procedures performed. . A patient will be required to be non-weight bearing in a cast or splint and use crutches for four to twelve weeks. Usually a patient can return to work in one to two weeks if they are able to work while seated. If a person's job requires standing and walking, return to work may take several weeks. Complete recovery may take six months to a full year. Complications can occur as with all surgeries, but are minimized by strictly following your surgeon's post-operative instructions. The main complications include infection, bone that is slow to heal or does not heal, progression or reoccurrence of deformity, a stiff foot, and the need for further surgery. Many of the above complications can be avoided by only putting weight on the operative foot when allowed by your surgeon.