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Rickets occurs when the body is lacking vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus and/or sunlight, which each play a part in building strong bones. With these deficiencies the individual, usually a child, develops weak bones. These weak bones become deformed under pressure, causing the characteristic visual result of rickets.

Deficiency in vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus or a lack of sunlight causes bones to become weak. When these weakened bones are expected to carry the body’s weight, they may bow under the pressure. Vitamin D comes from both food and sunlight. It regulates the body’s levels of calcium and phosphorus and when it is unable to do its job, calcium and phosphorus re released from the bones. 

Rickets may also be caused by problems with the kidney as it is unable to retain phosphate, or liver problems as it cannot process vitamin D.

Signs of rickets include:

  • Growth delays
  • Pain in bones
  • Muscle cramps
  • Many dental cavities
  • Thickened wrists or ankles
  • Bowing of the legs
  • Uncommon shaped skull
  • Flaring out of lower ribs

Treatment is usually simple, involving replacing the missing nutrients. An environmnt full of sunshine, a good diet, and a round of multi-vitamins usually restores the body’s balance. In more extreme cases of rickets an orthopaedic specialist may be called upon to help to reshape the bones. 

For immediate relief, stretching can often alleviate muscle cramps.

This resource is by no means intended as a substitute for a doctor's advice or diagnosis. Any concerns you may have with regard to your child's health and development should be discussed with a professional in an appropriate field.