Rickets was a thing of the past? 

Rickets is a childhood bone disorder in which bones can soften and become prone to fractures and deformity. The main cause of rickets is a lack of vitamin D. Not having enough calcium in one's diet may also be a cause. Some childhood kidney and liver diseases can cause rickets, as may a digestive disorder complication that affects calcium and phosphorous absorption.

rickets in children

Rickets is a childhood bone disorder in which bones can soften and become prone to fractures and deformity. The main cause of rickets is a lack of vitamin D. Not having enough calcium in one's diet may also be a cause. Some childhood kidney and liver diseases can cause rickets, as may a digestive disorder complication that affects calcium and phosphorous absorption.

Signs and symptoms of rickets

  • Baby is floppy
  • Bone pain
  • Bone tenderness
  • Bones break easily
  • Costochondral swelling - prominent knobs of the bone at the costochondral joints are prominent; large beads show up under the skin of the rib cage
  • Harrizon's groove - a horizontal line is visible at the lower margin of the thorax, where the diaphragm attaches to the ribs.
  • Low calcium blood levels (hypcalcemia)
  • Older children may have knock knees (genu valgum)
  • Soft skull (craniotabes)
  • The child's physical growth (height, weight) may be affected
  • There may be spinal, pelvic or cranial deformities
  • Toddlers may have bowed legs (genu varum)
  • Uncontrolled muscle spasms, which may affect the entire body (tetany)
  • Widening wrists

What is the treatment for rickets?

The patient's dietary intake of calcium, phosphates and vitamin D is increased. This may involve exposure to sunlight (ultraviolet B light), consuming fish oils. If enough ultraviolet B light exposure is available and used, as well as consuming adequate amounts of dietary and phosphorus, rickets can usually be reversed and prevented. The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends 400 IUs (international units) of vitamin D a day for babies and children. If the rickets is caused by bad diet the patient should be given daily calcium and vitamin D supplements, an annual vitamin D injection, as well as being encouraged to eat vitamin D rich foods. Treating genetic rickets - the patient will be prescribed phosphorus medications and active vitamin D hormones. Other medical conditions - if the rickets has an underlying medical cause, such as kidney disease, that disease needs to be treated and controlled.

How can rickets be prevented?

Estimating the exact vitamin D needs of each human is very difficult, because it is hard to measure how much of the vitamin is synthesized in the skin under the influence of ultraviolet rays (sunlight). In countries that are not near the tropics and sunlight intensity is lower, it is important to provide a supplementary intake of vitamin D to prevent rickets. This may involve enriching milk, baby foods and some other food products, the administration of a daily vitamin D supplement In areas with a lot of sunlight, the best way to prevent rickets is to expose the infant/child to the sun. While exposure to sunlight is a good source of vitamin D, it is important not to overdo it - excess sunlight exposure can lead to sunburn and eventually skin cancer.