Bowed legs, medically known as genu varum for “knee” and “angles in,” is a condition where the knees remain widely spaced while the feet and ankles are touching. Babies are born with bowed legs due to their curled position in the womb and the condition is normal in infants under the age of 18 months. After reaching this age children should be assessed by a doctor if they still display the signs of bowed legs as the condition could be caused by an illness or abnormal development. Treating the cause of bowed legs often leads to a cure.
Identify the symptoms of bowed legs. Children walk awkwardly with bow legs and may also experience "intoeing" -- turning in of the feet. Visit your doctor who will measure the distance between the knees and assess knee development. Bowed legs are not usually painful in childhood although teenagers with bowed legs can suffer pain or discomfort in the ankles, knees or hips.
Identify the underlying cause of bowed legs. Physiologic bowing is considered part of the normal process of child development. Pathologic bowing is not normal and is caused by a disease or condition such as rickets, Blount’s disease, obesity leading to abnormal bone development, or genetics. The doctor takes an X-ray and blood tests if they suspect pathologic bowing.
Let the condition progress naturally if the bowing is physiologic. If a bowlegged child has no other disease and the condition is not severe then no treatment is recommended and by the age of three or four the bowing corrects itself. Take your child to their doctor every six months for monitoring.
Treat rickets if it is causing bow legs. Rickets is usually caused by calcium and vitamin D deficiency. Increase the intake of vitamin D and calcium by eating foods rich in the nutrients, taking daily supplements, or receiving a yearly vitamin D injection.
Treat Blount’s disease as the cause of bowed legs. Blount’s disease is an abnormality in the growth plate of the upper tibia or shinbone. It progressively worsens bowed legs and should be treated with braces to lock the knees.
Undergo a surgical treatment. If Blount’s disease has not been resolved after the age of four or five, or physiologic bowed legs don’t correct themselves during childhood, then you may need surgery to correct the deformity. Children with rickets whose bow legs are not corrected after management with medication may also need surgery.
Prevent rickets from causing bowed legs by making sure children get enough calcium and vitamin D. Spending time in the sunshine and a diet high in dairy foods helps prevent the condition.
A case of bowed legs that is not treated and does not go away can lead to arthritis in the hips or knees.