Chilton Medical Center - ATLANTIC HEALTH SYSTEM
Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+)  font size
PrintEmail
Search Health Information   

Bowlegs

Definition:

Bowlegs is a condition in which the knees stay wide apart when a person stands with the feet and ankles together. It is consindered normal in children under 18 months.



Alternative Names:

Genu varum



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Infants are born bowlegged because of their folded position in the mother's womb. Bowed legs begin to straighten once the child starts to walk and the legs begin to bear weight (about 12 to 18 months old).

By around age 3, the child can usually stand with the ankles apart and the knees just touching. If the bowed legs are still present, the child is called bowlegged.

Bowlegs may be caused by illnesses such as:

  • Abnormal bone development
  • Blount's disease
  • Fractures that do not heal correctly
  • Lead or fluoride poisoning
  • Rickets , which is caused by a lack of┬ávitamin D


Symptoms:
  • Knees do not touch when standing with feet together (ankles touching)
  • Bowing of legs is same on both side of the body (symmetrical)
  • Bowed legs continue beyond age 3


Signs and tests:

A doctor can often diagnose bowlegs by simply looking at the child. The distance between the knees is measured while the child is lying on the back.

Blood tests may be needed to rule out rickets.

X-rays may be needed if:

  • The child is 3 years old or older
  • The bowing is getting worse
  • Bowing is not the same on both sides
  • Other test results suggest disease


Treatment:

No treatment is recommended for bowlegs unless the condition is extreme. The child should be seen by the health care provider at least every 6 months.

If the condition is severe or the child also has another disease, special shoes, braces, or casts can be tried. It is unclear how well these work.

At times, surgery is performed to correct the deformity in an adolescent with severe bowlegs.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

In many cases the outcome is good, and there is usually no problem walking.



Complications:

Bowlegs that does not go away and is not treated may lead to arthritis in the knees or hips over time.



Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if your child shows persistent or worsening bowed legs after age 3.



Prevention:

There is no known way to prevent bowlegs, other than to avoid rickets. Make sure your child has normal exposure to sunlight and appropriate levels of vitamin D in the diet.



References:

Canale ST. Osteochondrosis or epiphysitis and other miscellaneous affections. In: Canale ST, Beatty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 29.

Wells K, Sehgal K. Coronal Plane Deformities. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 667.4.




Review Date: 11/12/2012
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com


Morristown Medical Center
100 Madison Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
973-971-5000

Overlook Medical Center
99 Beauvoir Avenue
Summit, NJ 07901
908-522-2000

Newton Medical Center
175 High Street
Newton, NJ 07860
973-383-2121

Chilton Medical Center
97 West Parkway
Pompton Plains, NJ 07444
973-831-5000

Goryeb Children's Hospital
100 Madison Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
973-971-5000

© 2014 Chilton Medical Center, 97 West Parkway, Pompton Plains, New Jersey 1-973-831-5000