Have you ever wondered why some babies have bowlegs? Or how sometimes, their legs become straight with time as they grow? Bowlegs in babies is quite a common occurrence, and most times, there’s nothing to be worried about. Why? Keep reading.

Moreover, while some persons find bowlegs problematic and troubling, others find it admirable, especially if the legs are slightly curved. 

But why do some babies have bowlegs and others do not? And is there something that can be done to prevent this from happening?

What is Bowlegs?

Bowlegs in babies are medically known as Genu Varnum. It is a condition in which the legs curve outward at the knee – the legs are always apart without the knees touching. Though the knees are always apart when the child is standing, the ankle may touch in some persons with bowlegs. 

Bowlegs are the norms in babies, and it is pretty apparent when they are learning to stand and walk – this is known as physiologic tibia varnuml. However, bowlegs can also be caused by diseases or deficiencies, known as pathologic tibia varnum.

How do you know a baby has a bowlegs deformity?

Physiologic bowlegs do not cause pain or discomfort to children below the age of two. A child has a bowleg deformity if the knees are still apart at age two to three. Bowlegs deformity presents with the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the knee or hip region
  • Difficulty while walking or running
  • Frequent tripping or falling
  • Walking pattern different from other children

What are the Causes of Bowlegs?

Surprisingly, babies have bowlegs because of the fetal position – yup, the curled-up position that babies assume in their mother’s womb makes bowlegs a normal occurrence. 

The curvature of the legs remains until the muscles of the lower back and legs can support the legs in an upright position. 

However, the child will outgrow bowlegs with time – their legs will straighten out with time, so don’t worry too much. At the age of two to three, the legs may begin to look more like knocked knee, and at six years of age, the legs would have straightened out completely.

But sometimes, children do not outgrow bowlegs. Here are some of the possible reasons for this: 

  1. Improperly healed fractures: An injury or accident can cause bow legs in children. If the legs of a growing infant bend but do not break, the legs may bow eventually.
  2. Lead or fluoride poisoning: Fluoride is found mainly in toothpaste which children tend to swallow often while brushing or eat when not brushing. On the other hand, lead is consumed by children through ingestion of house dust and soil contaminated with lead. Lead and fluoride can cause bow legs in toddlers by poisoning the tissue of the bone – however, this is extremely rare. The poisoned tissue weakens and eventually bows. If you’re worried that your child ingests way too much toothpaste continuously, then opt for fluoride-free toothpaste.
  1. Blount’s disease occurs when a flat bone grows at the top of the tibia (the larger bone of the leg). The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but it is common in overweight children who start walking early. 
  2. Paget’s disease: It is a metabolic disease affecting the way bones break down and rebuild. This results in fragile bones that may curve inwardly. In humans, new bone cells are typically formed to replace the old ones – quite similar to you repainting your old walls. If the old ones are not replaced properly, the bones become weak and may bow. 
  3. Rickets: This disorder occurs when a child does not get an adequate amount of vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for bone development in toddlers. A deficiency of this vitamin will cause weakened bones and lead to bowlegs.
  4. Bone Dysplasia: It is an uncommon hereditary disorder where the joint of the bones grow abnormally.

Phew! Enough with the medical jargon; let’s move on to bowlegs diagnosis. 

How are bowlegs diagnosed?

To determine what is wrong, doctors check out the child’s medical history and physical examination of the affected area. If the child is below two years and is not experiencing any medical issues, they’re monitored until the child’s legs begin to straighten. 

You may need to see an orthopaedic doctor if:

  • Your child’s legs are not straightening out on their own
  • Your child experiences pain while walking and running
  • The degree of curvature of the legs is different. 

If the child experiences any of the above, the doctor may need an X-ray (and blood tests) on the child’s legs to check for Rickets or Blount’s disease.

How to Fix Bowlegs In Babies?

Here are some of the common ways of straightening out bowlegs:

1. Bracing: Braces are not only for teeth. They can also give support to bones to correct the curving outward of the legs. If braces do not work, then surgery may be required.

2. Surgery: Minimal incision surgery is done in growing children to encourage the legs to grow in a straight form. However, in adults, an osteotomy is required for correcting bowlegs in mature individuals who are no longer growing. Osteotomy involves cutting and rearranging the bones to put them in a proper position.

3. Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is necessary after performing surgery to correct bowlegs.

4. Vitamin D and Calcium supplements: Give the child vitamin D and calcium supplements for vitamin D deficiency bowlegs.

How to Help a Child Diagnosed With Pathologic Bowlegs

Not being able to do anything about an illness is like Robin in the movie ‘Breathe’ who could not plug back his mechanical respirator when it got unplugged. However, you can do the following to help:

Get educated

  • Knowledge is power, and knowing more about what is affecting your child is not out of place; it is right. Remember, a person who asks questions never misses their way. So, do your Homework! Do some research and get answers from reputable sources. 

Nutrition

  • A growing child needs the right amount of nutrients. Even more so one who has been diagnosed with bowlegs. You should provide your child with foods rich in Vitamin D If it is implicated in causing your child’s bowlegs.  Milk, oily fish, liver, and egg yolks are rich sources of vitamin D. Find more food sources of vitamin D here

Pay attention to your child’s weight

  • Watch your child’s diet to ensure that your child does not become overweight, especially if the child’s weight is worsening the condition.
  • Do not miss any doctor’s appointments, and ensure you follow the doctor’s rules.

Be optimistic

  • Be optimistic about your child’s health. Speaking negatively does not help your child’s condition, so stay positive!

Who gets bowlegs?

Bowlegs are normal in babies and toddlers where it is known as physiologic bowing. As discussed earlier, physiologic bowing will go on its own. In older children, bowlegs usually occur as a result of Blount’s disease and other causes. 

Myths about Bowlegs

Let’s bust some myths:

  • Babywearing can cause your baby to have bowlegs.
  • Bouncing babies, that is, throwing and catching your baby, cause bowlegs
  • Specific shoes can help correct bowlegs

All these do not cause deformation in your baby’s leg; neither do they weaken the baby’s bones, and so will not cause bowlegs. Neither can shoes be prescribed to fix bowlegs.

The Gist

Bowlegs in babies and toddlers is normal; you should not get yourself worked up about it. Just take a chill pill and watch as your child’s legs straighten out naturally on their own. 

However, if your child is above two and their legs are not showing any signs of straightening out. Then, you have to see the doctor ASAP.


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