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Alternate Names

  • genu varum
  • bandy leg


Bowleg refers to an outward curving, or bowing, of the legs. It is due to a deformity of the knees.

What is going on in the body?

During infancy, bowleg is normal. The condition usually corrects itself over the first 18-24 months of life. In some instances, the "bowing" will continue into adult life.


What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The deformity can result from arthritis that affects the inside of the knee more than the outside. This causes wearing of the inner joint cartilage and bone.
A "bowed" deformity can also occur when a fractured leg bone heals in an abnormal alignment..
An injury to the portion of the growth plate on the inside child's knee joint, can lead to unbalanced growth of the bone.
Bowlegs are associated with rickets as well. Rickets is a childhood bone disease that stems from a lack of vitamin D in the diet or an inability of the body to use vitamin D.
There is also a condition called "Blount's Disease." This condition occurs more frequently in overweight female African Americans under the age of five.


What can be done to prevent the condition?

Prevention involves avoiding the causes of the problem such as:
  • angled healing of fractures, which can be prevented with proper alignment of the broken bones
  • arthritis, which can occasionally be prevented by avoiding repeated overuse or injury to the joints
  • childhood rickets, which is often caused by a lack of sunlight and low vitamin D intake injury to the growth plates of the knee


How is the condition diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosis is for the healthcare professional to examine the legs. When standing or lying down, the affected person's knees are bowed outward. They appear farther apart than normal when the ankles are touching.
An instrument to measure angles, called a goniometer, can be used to determine the abnormal bowing. Leg x-rays can also confirm this condition.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

There may be progressive deformity and arthritis could possibly develop on the inside half of the knee.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

There are no risks to others.


What are the treatments for the condition?

No treatment is necessary for most infants, since bowlegs usually correct themselves. During childhood, assure the proper intake of vitamin D to prevent rickets
Corrective operations can also be performed, if necessary. The person may need to wear casts or braces following the operation.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Surgery carries the risk of fracture to the knee, injury to nerves, or damage to blood vessels. It can also cause compartment syndrome, which is increased pressure within the muscle compartment caused by bleeding or swelling.
After surgery, the knee may not realign, or the bone could fail to heal. In addition, the deformity may not adequately correct after bracing or casting.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

After surgery, a cast or brace is used until the bone heals. Physical therapy can also help restore knee motion and strength.


How is the condition monitored?

The knees should be observed for proper alignment during growth. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.

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