Genu varus or bowlegs: why does it occur and how is it treated?

Bow legs are a condition in which the natural or anatomical knee alignments. Children who have it have an exaggerated curvature that separates the knees and brings the ankles and feet closer together.

Its technical name is genu varo. It comes from the Latin genu which means ‘knee’ and varus which means that it ‘moves away from the midline of the body’.

Bow legs are normal in babies up to one and a half years of age. They begin to straighten from 12 months or when they begin to walk.

If the legs do not straighten when they are between 2 and 3 years of age or if they arch more, consult the pediatrician. Here's how a little bow-legged child is valued.

Are there other symptoms?

Sometimes, bowlegged children walk with their toes pointed inward. This is called convergent gait and it can be a cause of a lot of stumbling.

This problem usually resolves without complications as children get older. However, when bowlegs continue into adolescence they can cause pain in the ankles, knees, or hips.

Main causes of bowed legs

Babies are born with bow legs due to the position they had during their development in the womb. Some of the bones turned a bit as they grew inside the mother's womb to fit in such a small space.

This curvature is called physiological bow legs. It is considered a normal characteristic of growth and the natural process of development.

In some children, the arch of the legs too may be due to fractures that did not heal properly.

The configuration of the lower limbs is varied for each person, the knees being able to move away or get closer to the midline.

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How is it diagnosed?

To determine if a child with bow legs has this feature as part of his development, the doctor will review the complete history. Normally, tests are not done if you are not yet 2 years old.

These steps are followed as part of the physical exam:

  1. Measure the distance between both knees with the child lying on his back.
  2. Observe how the child walks to determine gait abnormalities.

If there is no discomfort and your legs are bowed almost symmetrically, the doctor will only recommend observation. This is for parents to follow the child's development and see if the arching improves over time.

Only in some cases is it necessary for an orthopedist to assess the child. The professional will determine if:

  • The legs are not straightening naturally.
  • The bow is asymmetrical (each leg has a different degree of bow).
  • There are added symptoms such as weakness, pain, or difficulty walking and running.

In that case, the doctor will request A radiography if you suspect it is Blount's disease. In this disorder the tibia turns inward. Is a growth disturbance of unknown cause which can get worse over time.

Another cause of bowed legs is rickets. In children with this disorder there is a vitamin D deficiency. To identify it, the orthopedist will order blood tests.

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What is the bowleg treatment?

If the doctor determined that the arching is physiological, he will not indicate any type of treatment. The legs will correct themselves as the child grows. To corroborate that are straightening a visit to the doctor every 6 months is recommended.

There are two types of treatment to correct them. One is supported by orthotics and the other through surgery.

Non-surgical treatment

Some children may require orthotics or splints. This is reserved for little ones with a severe bow or who have Blount's disease.

In patients with rickets, vitamin D is usually indicated and include more calcium in the diet. Increasing your exposure to sunlight is also recommended.

Surgical treatment

The orthopedist can determine if the degree of arching requires surgery. If it is a case of Blount's disease, it is more likely that it requires a surgical approach.

This operation can be performed from an early age. In special cases, it can be done once the growth has finished. This decision will depend on the severity of the tonnage and the benefits that can be obtained.

The treatment of this condition will depend on the severity and on whether an underlying pathology or a physiological process is suspected.

Recovery and prognosis

Since it can be part of the development, there are no preventive measures for bowlegs. As explained before, in many children it is only one stage of their growth.

One of the causes that can be prevented is rickets. To avoid this, it is enough for children to play outdoors exposed to sunlight with the appropriate safety devices.

When is it a case of physiological bowlegs the prognosis is good. In most cases it will correct itself and there will be no trouble walking.

When arching of the legs is severe and untreated, it can lead to osteoarthritis of the knees or hips in adult life.

Bow legs are not always pathological

Children with physiological bow legs do not require changes in their activities. They can walk, run, and play normally. They can be active like all boys their age.

It will only be enough to be aware of its growth and development. Consult your doctor if your legs do not straighten naturally or additional discomfort appears.