Bowlegs is a condition in which your legs appear bowed-out,
meaning your knees stay wide apart even when your ankles are together. Bowlegs
can sometimes be a sign of an underlying disease, such as Blount’s disease or
rickets, and in the long term can lead to arthritis in the knees and hips.
Treatment options include braces, casts, or surgery to correct these bone
This condition is fairly common in infants because of their
cramped position in the womb. Typically, no treatment is necessary for infants.
A child’s legs will begin to straighten when they start to walk, usually
between 12-18 months, and in most cases there are no lasting side effects.
You should contact a doctor if your child has bowlegs beyond the age of 2.
Bowleggedness is also known as congenital genu varum.
Causes of Bowlegs
In Blount’s disease, which is also called “tibia vara,” a child’s
shin abnormally develops, curving below the knees. As your child starts to
walk, the bowing of the legs becomes worse. This condition may be apparent
early on but in some cases symptoms may not be noticeable until they reach
adolescence. Over time, bowlegs can lead to joint problems in their knees.
Blount’s disease is more common in females and African-Americans,
and obese children. Children who begin walking early are at a greater risk. A
child should normally start walking on their own between 11 and 14 months of
Rickets is a condition resulting from prolonged vitamin D
deficiency. This softens and weakens the bones, causing your legs to bow.
This metabolic disease negatively affects the way your bones
break down and rebuild. As a result, they do not rebuild as strongly as they
should, and over time this can lead to bowlegs and other joint problems.
Paget’s disease is more common in older people and can be successfully managed
with early diagnosis and treatment.
The most common form of dwarfism is caused by a condition known
as achondroplasia. This is a bone growth disorder that can result in bowlegs
Bowlegs can also be a result of:
- bone fractures that have not healed properly
- abnormally-developed bones, or bone dysplasia
- lead poisoning
- fluoride poisoning
Recognizing the Symptoms of Bowlegs
This is a very recognizable condition. Your knees will not touch
when you stand with your feet and ankles together. Bowlegs will look symmetrical.
In children, most bowleg cases start to improve when a child
reaches 12-18 months old. You should talk to your pediatrician if your child’s
legs are still bowed beyond the age of two, or if the condition becomes worse.
Bowed legs are easy to spot, but your doctor can tell you how
severe the condition is or whether it is caused by an underlying disease.
During your visit, your doctor will likely take your leg
measurements and observe your walk. They may also order an X-ray or other
imaging tests of your legs and knees to view any bone abnormalities, and blood
tests to confirm your bowlegs are caused by another condition such as rickets
or Paget’s disease.
Treatment of Bowlegs
Treatment is usually not recommended for infants and toddlers
unless an underlying condition has been identified. Treatment may be
recommended if your case of bowlegs is extreme or getting worse, or if an
accompanying condition is diagnosed. Treatment options include:
- special shoes
- surgery to correct bone abnormalities
- treatment of diseases or conditions that cause
Can Bowlegs Be Prevented?
There is no known prevention for bowlegs. In some cases, you may
be able to prevent certain conditions that cause bowlegs, for example, you can
prevent rickets by making sure your child receives sufficient vitamin D, both
in their diet and from exposure to sunshine. Be sure to talk to your
pediatrician if your child still has bowlegs after the age of two.
Early diagnosis and detection of bowlegs will help you and your
child manage this condition.
While arthritis is the primary long term effect of bowleggedness,
it can be extremely disabling. When it
is severe, it effect the knees, the feet,
ankles and the hip joints because of the abnormal stresses applied. These people are typically obese which
compounds the problem. If one is forced
to do total knee replacement at a young age, then it is anticipated that a
revision would have to be done when the patient is older. Doing a total knee arthroplasty in these
people may be difficult because of the surgeries they have already undergone
and because of the abnormal alignment of the bones.