Also known as bow-leggedness, it is characterized by outward bowing of the lower legs from the knees resulting in a noticeable space between the legs at the knees.
Many infants have a mild outward curve in one or both legs that results in the knees not touching when placed together. This is only a concern if the bowing becomes worse and/or fails to resolve itself by age three. In severe cases, bowed legs can result in a child having a short stature.
Bowed legs can be caused by a fetus’ position in the womb or a normal variation that occurs in some small children which may naturally improve with time. However, the condition can occur as a result of a bone deformity caused by Blount’s disease (tibial growth plate abnormality), rickets (bone disease caused by a vitamin deficiency), an improperly healed fracture, or a growth plate disturbance.
Bowed legs can be diagnosed through visual observation and a physical exam. X-rays would then be ordered to assess the severity of the condition and blood tests may be ordered if the x-rays show signs of Blount’s disease or rickets.
Naturally occurring mild cases of bowed legs in young children should remain under observation but will typically improve without intervention as the child grows. Bracing or casting can be effective for early stage Blount’s disease and rickets can be managed with medication.
Surgical intervention is only considered for children whose bowed legs are resistant to non-surgical treatment and persist past the age of four.