Rickets is a bone disorder that occurs in children. In this, the bones are softened and weakened due to an extreme deficiency of Vitamin D for a prolonged period of time. Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from food. Calcium and phosphorus are essential for the development of bones. The deficiency of the above causes skeletal deformities.

What are the symptoms associated with rickets?

The signs and symptoms for the above condition can look like this:

  • Knocked deformity characterized by frequent falling while walking or running
  • Bowing of legs inwards or outwards
  • Thickened ankles or wrists
  • Outward projection of breastbone
  • Aching back and legs
  • Weakening of muscles
  • Delayed growth or motor skills

What are the causes behind rickets?

The cause can be divided into two categories:

  1. Lack of Vitamin D and calcium: If the children does not get proper sunlight exposure, their skin will not be able to produce vitamin D. Also, not having Vitamin D rich food such as fish oil, egg yolks, salmon, etc can lead to the deficiency.
  2. Absorption issues due to medical conditions: Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cystic fibrosis, and kidney problems can affect the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D. Therefore, all of this leads to a deficiency of Vitamin D.

What increases the risk of rickets in children?

Several conditions put a child at risk of developing rickets:

  • Premature birth
  • Having more melanin in the skin
  • Living in a geographical place where sunlight is low
  • Mother’s vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy
  • Certain medications such as anti-seizures and anti-viral medications
  • Only breastfed children as breast milk is low in Vitamin D

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor can make the diagnosis via:

  • X-rays of the affected bones can reveal the exact nature of deformity.
  • Blood and urine tests can diagnose the deficiency.
  • Examination of skull, legs, chest, wrists, and ankles. A physical examination by the doctor can reveal the condition.

Can it be treated?

Since it is a deficiency disorder it could be treated.

  • Exposure to adequate sunlight
  • Fortified vitamin D foods such as infant formula, cereal, bread, milk, etc
  • Calcium and Vitamin D supplement
  • For several cases of spinal deformities special bracing is prescribed.
  • Severe skeletal deformities might require surgery

If rickets is left untreated, it can lead to skeletal deformities affecting the knees such as inward or outward bowing, chest prominence, dental enamel defects and seizures. So, it is recommended to see a doctor as soon as you observe any signs rickets in your child. Early diagnosis will lead to successful treatment.

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