Rickets is a disease mainly of the children, though at times it can affect the teenagers and adults as well. It is a disorder of the bones wherein the bones become soft. Rickets is more prevalent in the underdeveloped and developing countries. The developed countries have rare instances of this malady.
It used to be a common disease even in the USA and the UK one and a half centuries ago.
Causes of Rickets
The major cause is the lack of vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for our bodies in order to absorb calcium present in our food. If the calcium is not absorbed by our body it results in hypocalcemia, which will make the bones weak and soft. Our bodies have a built-in system to absorb vitamin D from the sunlight, specially from the ultraviolet rays. Our skin cells have the ability to do so.
Many times the cause for rickets is the excessive use of sun blocking creams or avoiding going out in sun.
Symptoms of Rickets
Pain in the bones, dental problems, skeletal deformity, bowed legs of toddlers, knock knees of older children spinal deformities, increased instance of fractures are some common symptoms of rickets. The pain originates in the bones, even the areas around the bones may feel pain upon touching.
Bone deformities can even be in pelvic bones which may cause pain while walking. Dental problems manifest as eroded enamel and higher instances of cavities. In certain cases digestive problems also occur.
Poverty, lack of sunlight and malnutrition are the main risk factors of rickets. The poor do not get adequate vitamin D from food, hence their children are afflicted with this disease. Certain parts of the world do not get enough sunlight and some people avoid going out in sun because of multiple reasons, chiefly to avoid suntan or heat.
In some ethnic groups the pregnant women do not go out in sun due to cultural and religious reasons. This leads to shortage of vitamin D in their body and then it gets passed on to the newborn. Those with the dark skin run higher risk of rickets.
Treatment of Rickets
Improve Dietary Intake
Intake of vitamin D rich foods such as fish, eggs, milk is increased. Fish oil is to be taken, if required. Calcium intake should be increased. World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that babies need to consume 400 IUs (International Units) of vitamin D every day.
The doctors also look after the intake of phosphorus, because it is also essential for the bones as much as is calcium.
Therapies for Deformed Bones
Doctors use braces to correct bone deformity conditions, whether they are the bow legs or spinal deformities. At times surgery may also be required.
Sunlight, especially ultraviolet rays should be made available to all, especially children.
Treatment of Genetic Rickets
The doctors prescribe phosphorus supplements and vitamin D in the hormonal form. The genetic rickets does not happen due to the deficiency of vitamin D. Doctors diagnose the cause of the genetic rickets and then design the correct treatment.