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Bowlegs – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Overview

Bow legs is a type of knee malformation that can afflict individuals at any stage of the growing process but is more common amongst toddlers and adolescents. This disease is also referred to as bandy-leg, varus deformity, genu varum, and tibia vara. The treatment of the disease depends on multiple factors such as the patient’s age, stage of the disease, severity of the bone deformation and more.

What are bowlegs?

Bowlegs are a disorder that causes a person’s legs to appear to be bowed or bent outwards even when their ankles are joined together. Due to the fetal position children adopt while growing in the mother’s womb, many babies are born bowlegged. The toddler will outgrow this as they begin to stand and walk, under normal circumstances. As a result, bowlegs are common in children under the age of two, and this form of the bowed leg is called physiologic genu varum. This form of bowlegs among kids usually corrects itself between the ages of three to four. However, if a child still has bowlegs, with no signs of visible change in their bowed appearance, around the age of three to four years, he/she should be examined by an orthopedic specialist.

What are the symptoms of bowleg syndrome?

Here is a checklist of common symptoms that signal that the patient is potentially suffering from bowlegs:

  • The most prominent and common symptom of this affliction is a visible bowing of the legs.
  • Patients also tend to display abnormal walking patterns.
  • Consistent bowing during adolescence can create discomfort in the hips, knees, and/or ankles due to the unnatural tension that the curved legs place on these joints. 
  • Instability while walking is common among adolescents suffering from this disease.

When should you seek medical attention?

A parent should visit a doctor at an early stage of their child’s growth cycle to assess whether their child has the potential to develop bowleg deformity. A visit to the ortho paedician  is a must if:

  • The angle between the thighbone and the shinbone of the child is skewed abnormally.
  • One leg is angled far more (or less) than the other.

It is highly advised that you visit the nearest Apollo doctor if your child’s bowed legs remain unchanged, with no sign of straightening, beyond the age of three. 

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What causes bowleg syndrome?

Bowleg syndrome can be caused by a variety of conditions, including Blount’s disease, inadequately healed fractures, vitamin deficiencies, and lead poisoning.

The three major causes are:

  1. Blount’s disease

Blount’s disease is an illness that can affect both toddlers and adolescents. It is caused by a disorder in the growth plates around the knees. Blount’s disease causes growth plate near the inside of your knee to either slow down or stops making the new bone. In the meantime, the growth plate near the outside of your knee continues to grow normally.

  1. Rickets

Rickets is a bone disease that produces bowed legs and other abnormalities in children. Deficiency in calcium, phosphorous, and Vitamin D can cause rickets in children.

In developed countries, nutritional rickets is uncommon since many foods, particularly milk products, are fortified with Vitamin D. If nutritional rickets does occur, it affects children who are usually breastfed exclusively. Rickets can also be caused by a genetic defect that prevents Vitamin D from being absorbed properly. 

  1. Physiologic Genu Varum

Bowing of legs is normal for children under the age of two. Doctors refer to this type of bow-leggedness as physiologic genu varum. By the age of 18 months, children with this physiologic genu varum start displaying signs of improvement. By the time they are three or four years old, the bow-like bending should have rectified itself.

What are the risk factors associated with Bowlegs syndrome?

Skeletal issues, infections, and tumors can impede leg growth, and increase the risk of developing bowed leg. Bow leggedness can also be exacerbated by arthritis that affects the inside of the knee more than the outside. An improperly healed fracture can also increase the chances of developing bowed legs.

What are the options for bowleg syndrome treatment?

Vitamin D supplements and a Vitamin D-rich diet are used to cure rickets and avoid the resultant bowing. 

For patients with infantile Blount’s disease,  braces and splints are used to coax or guide the legs into a straighter position. However, if the problem does not correct itself by the age of four, surgery is recommended.

Surgery is also the sole option for older people. To regain complete range of motion and strength in the legs, physiotherapy is frequently required.

There are two types of surgeries available for patients with bowed legs

  1. Guided growth – A small metal plate/screws or a single screw is inserted at the growth plate to tether its growth,  in this simple outpatient surgery. The leg will straighten towards the opposite direction over time.
  2. Osteotomy – This is a more complex procedure that involves dividing and repositioning the bone to straighten a bent leg. The bone is then secured in place either internally with a plate and screws or externally with a frame. This is required in those patients who do not have enough development in the legs to allow guided growth to succeed.

What can we do to avoid bowleg syndrome?

There is no specific method to prevent bowlegs. Certain conditions that cause bowlegs are, however, preventable such as rickets, which can be avoided by ensuring that your child gets enough Vitamin D through both diet and sun exposure.

If your child still has bowlegs after the age of two, consult with his or her doctor and chart out the next course of action. Early diagnosis of bowlegs will assist you and your child in managing the problem more efficiently.

A Note from Apollo Hospitals/Apollo Group

The timely treatment of disorders such as Rickets and Blount’s disease is critical for your child’s ability to have a fulfilling future. These disorders are frequently the cause of bowlegs. If the bowleg does not cure by itself after the age of three, it’s recommended that you consult your Apollo doctor.

Request an appointment at Apollo Hospitals

Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can knock knees be caused by bowlegs?

Bow-legged babies are more likely to have knocked knees later in life. By the time the child reaches the age of nine, the condition should ideally get resolved on its own.

2. Is it possible to diagnose a genu varum?

A physical examination and an X-ray are used to confirm the diagnosis of genu varum and establish the status of the bones and joints. The degree of aberrant bowing is measured using a device called a goniometer.

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