What is Rickets?

Rickets is a skeletal condition or disorder. It occurs when a person lacks the essential vitamins and nutrients that are necessary for the development of strong and healthy bones. These missing nutrients can include phosphate, calcium or vitamin D. Rickets causes the bones in the body to weaken and soften because of the prolonged lack of vital nutrients.

Generally, rickets is a condition that affects children. It often causes stunted growth because of the weakening and softening of the bones. While rickets is a skeletal disorder, it is actually caused by gastrointestinal issues under most circumstances. Sometimes, the gastric system may be unable to properly absorb vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital to the development of strong, healthy bones because it promotes calcium and phosphate absorption, which in turn strengthen the bones.

Other potential causes for rickets include premature birth, kidney disorders and diseases, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and maternal low vitamin D levels when the child was still in utero. Exclusive breastfeeding may also contribute to the development of rickets because human breast milk lacks sufficient vitamin D.

What are the Symptoms of Rickets?

There are numerous symptoms of rickets, most of which have to do with posture as well as mobility and growth. Pain is a common symptom of rickets and usually occurs in the legs, spine, or pelvis. Stunted growth is also an indicator of this skeletal condition.

A person with rickets may also suffer from muscle tone problems and weakness, especially in the arms and legs. Other symptoms include bowed legs or knock knees, deformities in the ribcage or other bones in the body, deformities in the teeth, dental abscesses, or skull deformities.

How is Rickets Treated?

Generally, many of the issues and symptoms caused by rickets can be corrected with nutrient replacement. When the vitamin D, phosphate, and calcium levels are all back to normal, the bones can strengthen and harden, making the whole body stronger. If rickets has caused any significant deformities, surgery and bracing may be necessary to correct these issues. Spinal deformities and leg deformities are the skeletal abnormalities most likely to require surgery.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
August 23, 2017