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Could my child be bowlegged?
It's absolutely normal for a baby's legs to appear bowed, so that if he were to stand up with his toes forward and his ankles touching, his knees wouldn't touch. Babies are born bowlegged because of their position in the womb.
You may notice bowleggedness more as your child starts to stand and walk, but typically the legs gradually straighten out. By age 3, most kids no longer appear bowlegged. And by age 7 or 8, most children's legs have reached the angle they'll retain into adulthood.
Rarely, bowlegs are caused by a vitamin D deficiency (also called rickets) or a condition called Blount's disease, a bone disorder that affects the shins. Even more uncommonly, bowlegs are caused by rare genetic disorders.
How can I tell if my child is bowlegged?
If your child stands with his toes forward and his ankles together and his knees don't touch, he's bowlegged. If his knees touch but his ankles don't, he's knock-kneed. (Being knock-kneed is generally most obvious between ages 3 and 6. Like bowleggedness, it usually corrects itself.)
Should I mention it to the doctor?
If your child is a baby or young toddler, the appearance of bowleggedness is probably normal. But if you're concerned, have the doctor check it out.
If your child is just 2 years old or so, he may still appear a little bowlegged, but there should be some improvement from toddlerhood. If he's had his third birthday and his bowleggedness is still apparent, it's worth having the doctor take a look.
At any age, it's worth mentioning to the doctor if you think it's extreme, affecting only one side, or getting worse instead of better.
The doctor will probably examine your child and note his history. A blood test may be done to rule out a vitamin D deficiency and X-rays may be taken to rule out Blount's disease.
If there is a vitamin deficiency, the doctor will prescribe a supplement. Your child may also be referred to a pediatric orthopedist for further evaluation or treatment.
Can bowlegs be corrected?
Treatment is rarely needed, but very occasionally surgery is used to correct a severe curve. Most experts today don't recommend braces or corrective shoes because they can cause problems with physical development.