What is rickets? What causes rickets?

Rickets is a bone disease caused by vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is responsible for calcium and phosphorous absorption. Low calcium and phosphate level in the body weakens the bones and result in bone deformities. Anti seizure medications also hamper the body's natural ability to use vitamin D. This preventable bone disease is common in children. Physical deformities can be completely cured if proper treatment is given in the early stages.

Types of rickets

Different types of rickets are,

  • Hypophosphatemic rickets (vitamin-D-resistant rickets)
  • Renal or kidney rickets (renal osteodystrophy)
  • Nutritional rickets (caused by deficiency of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate)
  • Hereditary rickets. You are at risk of rickets, if any of your family members has it.

How can we get enough vitamin D?

  • From milk products
  • Exposure to sunlight will stimulate the skin to produce vitamin D.

Who are at risk of rickets?

  • Premature babies
  • Breastfed infants: Human breast milk alone doesn’t provide sufficient amount of vitamin D.
  • Vegetarians
  • Those who avoid milk and dairy products

What are the signs and symptoms of rickets?

  • Bone pain/ tenderness
  • Dental deformities
  • Delay in teeth formation
  •  Muscle weakness
  • Growth problems
  • Short stature
  • Seizures
  • Bone fractures
  • Skeletal deformities

How is rickets diagnosed?

A thorough study of medical and nutritional history is essential to diagnose rickets. Tests including arterial blood gases, blood tests (calcium- blood test), bone biopsy (rarely done), bone x-rays,  alkaline phosphatase (ALP) - blood test and serum phosphorus test are employed in diagnosing rickets.  

What are the treatment options for rickets?

Vitamin D and calcium supplements are used to treat rickets. Choose annual vitamin D injection if you don’t want your child to take vitamin D supplements daily. Severe bone abnormalities can only be treated by surgery.

How much does it cost to treat rickets?

NHS reports £76m for vitamin D deficiency treatment, in 2011.

Is there any way to prevent rickets?

  • Make sure that your child eats food rich in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. Fish, liver, milk and dairy products are rich sources of vitamin D.
  • Moderate sun exposure can also help compensate the vitamin D deficiency.