What are the knees?

scientifically known as genu valgum Knock knees are a condition in which the legs bow out. When a person with a severe case stands with their legs fully extended, the knees will touch, but the ankles will not. A similar condition, known as bow legs, occurs when the knees bend outward so that they don't touch when a person stands with their feet together.

Both bow legs and knees are a normal part of child development. Children will usually appear slightly arched for the first three years of life. Around the age of two or three, the knees will turn inward as the child learns to walk properly. Knees usually straighten out by age five or six when a child develops normally.

In some cases, however, the knees may worsen or persist into late childhood. Overweight children are at particularly high risk for this problem, as their legs may turn inward in an attempt to support the extra weight. Also, diseases such as rickets or osteomyelitis can weaken the bones and contribute to the condition.

In other cases, knock knees can develop due to an injury to the growth area of ​​the tibia, although this usually results in only one knock knee. When it develops with no known cause, it is known as idiopathic genu valgum .

Untreated persistent knees can be very detrimental to an individual's self-esteem during late childhood and adolescence. Adults who have this condition are also more susceptible to injuries and chronic knee problems. Many people develop osteoarthritis, a painful condition caused by uneven use of cartilage within the joints. In very severe cases, it can also make it difficult for a person to walk.

Fortunately, kneecaps can be easily corrected, particularly when caught early. Health care providers typically prescribe braces, such as night braces, for children who have a family history of the condition. Orthopedic shoes can also be effective.

If braces don't correct the problem, surgery may be recommended. For children, corrective procedures are most effective around 10 or 11 years of age. If knees go untreated and persist into adulthood, however, total knee replacement surgery may be necessary to relieve pain caused by the condition.

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