Rickets is caused mainly due to vitamin D deficiency. But there are other causes of this disease too. This article will shed some light on its causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Rickets is characterized by weakening of the bones. There are many reasons why a person could develop rickets, the main one being the deficiency of vitamin D. Rickets is more common in children than in adults. Read ahead to know how this disease is caused and how to treat it.
*This HealthHearty article is for information purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for medical advice.
What Causes Rickets
One of the major causes of rickets is insufficiency of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is fat-soluble. It is absorbed by the skin from the ultraviolet light that the sun gives out. Another way of acquiring vitamin D is through dietary consumption. Vitamin D converts itself into a hormone and helps in the regulation and absorption of calcium and phosphates in the blood. When these mineral levels go down in the body, the bones are not able to sustain themselves, and their support system collapses. As a result, the bones become soft and weak.
Rickets can also be a hereditary condition. This happens when due to heredity, the kidneys cannot retain the required phosphate level. Sometimes, infants who are breast-fed by mothers with low vitamin D levels also fall prey to rickets. The function of vitamin D is to be converted into its active form in order to be of use to the body. In case of liver disorders in some children, this cannot be done. Hence, due to the lack of active vitamin D, they become susceptible to rickets. Kidney diseases like renal tubular acidosis is also another cause of rickets. Dark-skinned children living in areas which receive slanting rays of the sun are more prone to rickets, because they do not receive the required amount of UV light.
What Happens in Rickets
Given below are some symptoms that can tell if you or you child may be suffering from rickets. If you think either of you is displaying any or all of these symptoms, then it is advisable to visit a doctor immediately.
Rickets in Infants
- Poor general health of the baby.
- If the baby does not seem to be growing at a normal rate.
- Under development of bones in the baby.
- The baby may have sleepless nights or very broken sleep at night.
- Hair may wear off because the child keeps moving at night.
- Normal activities like crawling, sitting up, and walking may be delayed due to weakness and softness of the bones.
- Because the bones are weak, they might not be able to bear the weight of the baby’s body, so the legs appear bent and unshapely.
- The skull of the baby is soft.
Rickets in Children/Adults
- Restlessness and irritability are the symptoms that appear right at the onset of disease.
- Excessive sweating at night from the head is another symptom.
- During the day, the person may appear really dull and tired.
- An abnormal appetite, unnaturally large abdomen are other symptoms.
- Due to digestive problems, flatulence, vomiting and diarrhea can occur.
- Excess vomiting and diarrhea leads to the draining of phosphates and calcium from the body. This, in turn, causes rickets.
- The bones in the body become soft and weak. Due to this, the legs and arms may appear bent. The person looks bowlegged.
- A lot of dental problems also arise due to low calcium levels in the blood.
- Due to the weight of the body, when the legs get bent, the ankles and wrists appear swollen as they bear the maximum pressure of the bone weight.
- Due to calcium deficiency, even the spinal cord gets bent and this results in the protrusion of the chest bone. This is called a pigeon chest.
- The pelvis, being unable to bear the weight of the upper body, becomes misshapen.
- Due to insufficient formation and absorption of calcium and phosphates, severe and frequent muscle cramping also occur.
- Stunted growth is also another symptom of rickets.
- Due to weak and soft bones, the person is more prone to frequent fractures.
- Pain in bones and joint pain is another symptom of rickets.
How to Treat Rickets
- Since the major cause is vitamin deficiency, patients are advised to get maximum exposure to UV rays of the sun, which are a rich source of vitamin D.
- During pregnancy, women deficient in vitamin D are advised to get exposure to UV rays in the morning.
- Infants who are breast fed, are more susceptible to rickets. So, they should be given vitamin D supplements along with the mother’s milk.
- Foods high in vitamin D are eggs, fish, processed milk, cod liver oil, butter, margarine, etc.
- People having rickets due to kidney disorders or liver disorders should get treatment for their specific conditions.
- Dark-skinned babies should be made to face sunlight for at least 15-20 minutes in the morning since they need it more.
- A sufficient intake of calcium and phosphorus is advised.
Rickets is not incurable, but the earlier it is diagnosed, the better, especially in infants and children. Maintaining clean and healthy living conditions and having a well-balanced diet with the necessary nourishment, will help to prevent the disease.