CHANDIGARH, FEBRUARY 28, 2013: Limping in children is never normal. Its presence suggests that walking is either painful or difficult because of muscle weakness. The causes of this common childhood problem range from splinters in the foot to serious medical problems that can affect the youngster’s life if treatment is delayed.
Says Dr. Harinder Batth, a city based Senior Orthopedics Consultant, limping child- parents’ dilemma” at Cosmo Hospital, here today. Doctors caring for children rely a lot on the parent’s history in determining the cause of the child’s limp like when did the limp start, how long has the child been limping, was there an injury or the limp constant, did it come or go, is it present only in the morning or at the end of the day or are there other signs of other illnesses, such as fever, weight loss, decreased appetite, or rashes.
The most frequent cause of limping is the childhood disorder or “transient synovitis of the hip, remarks Dr Batth. It is presumed that a virus produces inflammation in the lining of the hip joint since most affected children had a mild cold before they suddenly started limping. This self-limited condition usually occurs in boys between 2 to 12 years of age (average 6 years), he pointed out.
Dr Batth elaborates further, legg-calve-perthes disease is another condition that always has to be considered when a child limps. It develops when, for unknown reasons, something happens to interrupt the blood supply to the top of the thigh (femoral) bone. This result in destruction of bone’s top causing pain when the child walks. Boys aged four to ten are five times are more likely to be affected than girls.
“Another cause of limp in children is slipped capital femoral epiphysis. For unknown reasons the top of the thigh (femoral) bone slides into an abnormal position causing an abnormal fit of the hip joint. It is most frequently seen in overweight male teenagers (10-15 years of age).”
He says a leg injury is frequently blamed for limping since children aree always falling, but trauma may not be the real cause. On the other hand, even a trivial fall can cause a significant sprain or fracture.
Sprains (injuries to the ligaments that surround the joints) of the knee and ankles are common in children and will cause the youngster to protect the injured joint by limping. Athletic children are prone to these types of injuries because of overuse and inadequate pre-game stretching. An infection in a leg bone or joint will cause children to protect the painful area by limping. These youngsters, however, will usually have tenderness, swelling and redness in the skin overlying the infected area, and many times appear quite ill.
Parents worried when they see their child limping. The cause of the abnormal walk can be something simple, like a blister on the foot or a sprained ankle. On the other hand, a child who limped, can have a more serious medical disorder and parents should seek medical attention for this common childhood problem, opines Dr Batth.