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Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Bowed Legs

These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

Bowed Legs
Question: I am 37 years old and have a progressively worsening condition of bowed legs. It is not life threatening, but it bothers me more and more each day. I am an avid basketball player who has had four minor scopes, with two on each knee. Is an operation viable at this point?

Answer: There are several conditions which lead to curvature of the legs. The first is congenital, usually caused by positioning in the uterus and is occasionally familial. This is treated by an orthopedic surgeon with braces and casts. The second is osteomalacia. This is seen in children and its familiar name is rickets. Adding Vitamin D to the diet will usually correct the condition. Finally, are curved legs which occur after adulthood. These are usually due to arthritis and progressive deformity of the knees. Occasionally, adding medial wedges to ones shoes will help and this is done by a cobbler - start with 1/8 inch. If this is of no help surgical correction with wedge resection of the femur or knee replacement is the only option.

Question:Any suggestions, assuming there is adequate nutrition, on correcting 'bowed legs"?

Answer:Fifty years ago bow legs were usually due to ricketts. This was a lack of vitamin D in the diet causing the medical condition osteomalacia. When Vitamin D deficiency occurs in children their bones are soft giving the characteristic bow legs. Bow legs were also occasionally seen in different syphilis conditions. However, with the addition of Vitamin D to milk and milk products and the general use of penicillin both these conditions are extremely rare. Bow legs are usually referred to an orthopedic specialist or occasionally a Physical Medicine specialist for correction with braces or surgery.
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