What Is Rickets?
Rickets is a
skeletal disorder that results from a lack of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate.
These nutrients are important for the development of strong, healthy bones. People
with rickets can have weak and soft bones, stunted growth, and, in severe
cases, skeletal deformities.
Vitamin D helps
your body absorb calcium and phosphate from your intestines. You can get
vitamin D from various food products, including milk, eggs, and fish. Your body
also produces the vitamin when you’re exposed to sunlight.
A vitamin D
deficiency makes it difficult for your body to maintain sufficient levels of
calcium and phosphate. When this occurs, your body produces hormones that cause
calcium and phosphate to be released from your bones. When your bones lack
these minerals, they become weak and soft.
most common in children who are between 6 and 36 months old. Children are at
the highest risk of rickets because they are still growing. Children might not
get enough vitamin D if they live in a region with little sunlight, follow a
vegetarian diet, or don’t drink milk products. In some cases, the condition is
rare in the United States. Rickets used to be more common, but it mostly
disappeared in developed countries during the 1940s due to the introduction of
fortified foods, such as cereals with added vitamin D.
Who Is at Risk for
for rickets include the following:
most common in children who are between 6 and 36 months old. During this time
period, children usually experience rapid growth. This is when their bodies
need the most calcium and phosphate to strengthen and develop their bones.
You have a
higher risk of developing rickets if you eat a vegetarian diet that doesn’t
include fish, eggs, or milk. You’re also at an increased risk if you have
trouble digesting milk or have an allergy to the protein in dairy (lactose).
Infants who are only fed breast milk can become deficient in vitamin D as well.
Breast milk doesn’t contain enough vitamin D to prevent rickets.
African, Pacific Islander, and Middle Eastern descent are at the highest risk
for rickets because they have dark skin. Dark skin doesn’t react as strongly to
sunlight as lighter skin does, so it produces less vitamin D.
Our bodies produce
more vitamin D when they’re exposed to sunshine, so you’re more at risk for
rickets if you live in an area with little sunlight. You’re also at a higher
risk if you work indoors during daylight hours.
A form of
rickets can be inherited. This means that the disorder is passed down through
your genes. This type of rickets, called hereditary rickets, prevents your kidneys from absorbing
What Are the Symptoms of
or tenderness in the bones of the arms, legs, pelvis, or spine
growth and short stature
deformities, such as:
- delayed tooth formation
- holes in the enamel
- defects in the tooth structure
- an increased number of cavities
- an oddly shaped skull
- bowlegs, or legs that bow out
- bumps in the ribcage
- a protruding breastbone
- a curved spine
- pelvic deformities
doctor right away if your child is showing signs of rickets. When the disorder
isn’t treated during a child’s growth period, the child may end up with a very
short stature as an adult. Deformities can also become permanent if the
disorder goes untreated.
How Is Rickets Diagnosed?
Your doctor may
be able to diagnose rickets by performing a physical examination. They will
check for tenderness or pain in the bones by lightly pressing on the bones. Your
doctor may also order certain tests to help make a rickets diagnosis, including:
blood gases to determine how much oxygen and carbon dioxide are in the blood
tests to measure the levels of calcium and phosphate in the blood
X-rays to check for bone deformities
cases, a bone biopsy will be performed. This involves the removal of a very
small section of bone, which will be sent to a laboratory for analysis.
How Is Rickets Treated?
for rickets focuses on replacing the missing vitamin or mineral in the body.
This will eliminate most of the symptoms associated with rickets. If your child
has a vitamin D deficiency, your doctor will likely want them to increase their
exposure to sunlight, if possible. They will also encourage them to consume food
products high in vitamin D, such as fish, liver, milk, and eggs.
vitamin D supplements can also be used to treat rickets. Ask your doctor about
the correct dosage, as it can vary based on the size of your child. Too much
vitamin D or calcium can be unsafe.
deformities are present, your child may need braces to position their bones
correctly as they grow. In severe cases, your child may need corrective
hereditary rickets, a combination of phosphate supplements and high levels of a
special form of vitamin D are required to treat the disease.
What Can Be Expected After
Treatment for Rickets?
vitamin D, calcium, and phosphate levels will help correct the disorder. Most
children with rickets usually see improvements in about one week.
deformities will often improve or disappear over time if rickets is corrected
while the child is still young. However, skeletal deformities can be permanent
if the disorder isn’t treated during a child’s growth period.
How Can Rickets Be Prevented?
The best way
to prevent rickets is to eat a diet that includes adequate amounts of calcium,
phosphorous, and vitamin D. Rickets can also be prevented with moderate sun
exposure. According to the National Health Service of
you only need to expose your hands and face to sunlight a few times a week
during the spring and summer months to prevent rickets.
get enough exposure to sunlight. It’s important to note that too much sunlight
can damage your skin, and sunscreen should be applied to prevent burns and skin
damage. Sometimes, the use of sunscreen can prevent your skin from producing
vitamin D, so it’s beneficial to eat foods that contain vitamin D or to take
vitamin D supplements. These preventive measures can significantly lower your
risk of developing rickets.
kidney disorders should have their calcium and phosphate levels monitored on a
regular basis by their doctors as well.