Many babies are born with bowlegs (or genu varum) and most outgrow them. For those who don't, Cook Children's pediatric orthopedists are experts in caring for kids with this condition.
Bowlegs, or genu varum is an exaggerated bending (bowing) outward of the legs from the knees down that causes the knees to be spread apart when the feet and ankles are touching.
Bowlegs in children after the age of 2, can be a sign of a serious condition.
Genu varum is a normal condition in children up to 18 months of age. Because of the way their bodies are positioned in the uterus, almost all babies are born bowlegged. Once they begin to walk and their legs start to bear weight, their legs usually straighten out.
Bow-leggedness beyond the age of 2 or bow-leggedness in one leg only can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as Blount disease (which causes abnormal growth in the shinbone) or rickets (a bone growth problem caused by a lack of vitamin D or calcium in the diet).
Rickets, a bone growth problem usually caused by lack of vitamin D or calcium in the body, causes severe bowing of the legs and also can cause muscle pain and enlargement of the spleen and liver. Rickets is much less common today than in the past.
Rickets and the resulting bowlegs are almost always corrected by adding vitamin D and calcium to the diet. Some types of rickets, however, are due to a genetic condition and may need more specialized treatment by an endocrinologist.
Blount disease is a condition that affects the tibia bone in the lower leg. Leg bowing from Blount disease is seen when a child is about 2 years old, and can appear suddenly and quickly become worse.
The cause of Blount disease is unknown, but it causes abnormal growth at the top of the tibia bone by the knee joint. To correct it, kids may need bracing or surgery when they're between 3 and 4 years old.
You should also take your child to the doctor if the bowleg is only on one side or gets progressively worse.
Most of the time, genu varum is a perfectly normal condition that corrects itself by the time a child is about 2 or 3 years old. When treatment is necessary, braces or surgery can usually fix it and prevent any problems with walking.