What Is Rickets?
Rickets is a disease of bone most commonly caused worldwide by a deficiency of vitamin D. The deficiency may be caused by a lack of vitamin D in the diet, a lock of exposure to sunlight, or a problem the body has with absorbing or using vitamin D. Rickets is characterized by improper hardening of the bones, resulting in skeletal deformities if left untreated. Rickets affects primarily infants and children because bone growth occurs during childhood. Rickets can occur for a number of reasons. According to Nutrition and Well-Being A to Z, “The term itself is derived from the old English word for “twist,” or “wrick,” and throughout history children with rickets could be identified by their bowed legs and knock knees, which gave them a twisted appearance” (Kumar & Pania 2004).
Rickets can occur because of a nutritional deficiency in vitamin D. Today this type of rickets is rare in developed countries. Children growing up in poor communities where vitamin D rich foods may be scarce are the most susceptible to rickets. Children living in areas where there is a lack of sunshine, such as in the Northern Hemisphere in the winter, also are susceptible. Another form of nutritional rickets is seen in extremely premature babies if they are fed a vitamin D poor formula or if their diet contains inadequate amounts of phosphorus and calcium. Rickets also can occur because of inherited genetic disorders that result in improper absorption or utilization of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphorus.
Children with rickets may not have any symptoms, or they may feel pain and develop bone deformities. A child who has or is developing rickets may experience muscle cramps, twitches, and abnormal contractions of the hands and feet due to low levels of calcium in the blood. The muscles, limbs, and abdomen grow weak and the bones of the skull remain soft. An infant with rickets may have difficulty developing such...