Rickets is a skeletal disorder caused by the lack of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate. These nutrients are essential for the proper development of bones and bone health. People suffering from rickets may have soft and weak bones, stunted growth, and in some cases, skeletal deformities.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphate, so lack of vitamin D hinders the absorption of those nutrients. Vitamin D occurs naturally in foods like eggs, fish, and milk. The most efficient source of vitamin D remains the sun. Lack of vitamin D makes it difficult for your body to maintain healthy levels of calcium and phosphate. The bones cannot absorb these elements, while the excess unabsorbed calcium and phosphate remain in the intestines, which could end up causing more severe problems. When this happens, your body secures hormones that lead to calcium and phosphate release from your bones. When your bones lack these minerals, they become soft and feeble.
Children are at higher risk of suffering from rickets. Children may not get enough vitamin D if they follow a vegetarian diet, live in a region with low sunlight, or drink enough milk products. In some cases, parents pass this on to their offspring.
Risk factors for rickets
Age: As said above, rickets is likely to occur in children of 6-36 months old. During this period, children experience more rapid growth and require lots of calcium and phosphate to keep up. If they lack, they can easily be affected with rickets.
Diet: You’re likely to have rickets if you follow a strict vegan diet. You’re also at more risk if you’re unable to process and digest dairy products (lactose intolerance).
Skin color: Individuals with darker skin colors are at the risk of having rickets. Darker skin colors find it hard to react with sunlight to produce vitamin D compared to lighter skin.
Geographic location: Our bodies can produce more vitamin D when they’re exposed to sunshine, so you’re at more risk for rickets if you live in an area with little sunlight. You’re also at a higher risk if you work indoors during morning hours.
Genes: Some forms of rickets can be inherited. This type of rickets, called hereditary rickets, prevents your kidney from absorbing phosphate from the intestines.
Symptoms of rickets
– Pain or tenderness within the bones of the arms, legs, pelvis, or spine
– Stunted growth and short stature
– Bone fractures
– Muscle cramps
– Teeth deformities, such as delayed tooth formation, holes in the enamel, abscesses, e.t.c
– Oddly shaped skull
– Bowlegs, or legs that bow out
– Bumps in the ribcage
– A protruding breastbone
– A curved spine
– Pelvic deformities
If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, call the doctor immediately. Deformities that are not taken care of could become permanent. Rickets is diagnosable by performing a physical test. The physician lightly presses your bones in search of tenderness or pains. In some cases, physicians use other tests to diagnose the condition. Such tests include,
•Blood test: A blood test can ascertain the calcium and phosphate level present in the blood. Levels hanging on the low side are likely symptoms of rickets and should be treated immediately.
•X-ray: This is mainly for checking any bone deformities.
A bone biopsy could be performed in rare cases, which involves removing a small part of the bone, which will be sent to the laboratory for analysis.
Treatments for rickets involve replacing the missing minerals in the body. This procedure eliminates most of the symptoms. If your child is deficient in vitamin D, the likely suggestion is for him/her to spend more outdoors in the sun. Some doctors would encourage them to consume food high in vitamin D like, fish, liver, eggs, and milk. Supplements can also be of great help but make sure you make enough inquiries from your doctor.