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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Other Names for this Disease
  • Hypovitaminosis D
  • Nutritional rickets
  • Vitamin D deficiency disease
  • Vitamin-D deficiency rickets
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Overview



What is rickets?

What are the signs and symptoms of rickets?

What causes rickets?

How is rickets diagnosed?

What treatment is available for rickets?


What is rickets?

Rickets is a condition that causes children to have soft, weak bones. It usually occurs when children do not get enough vitamin D, which helps growing bones absorb important nutrients. Vitamin D comes from sunlight and food. Skin produces vitamin D in response to the sun's rays. Some foods also contain vitamin D, including fortified dairy products and cereals, and some kinds of fish.[1]
Last updated: 7/26/2013

What are the signs and symptoms of rickets?

The signs and symptoms of rickets include:[2][3]
  • Bone pain or tenderness
  • Bowed (curved) legs
  • Large forehead
  • Stunted growth
  • Abnormally curved spine
  • Large abdomen
  • Abnormally shaped ribs and breastbone
  • Wide wrist and elbow joints
  • Teeth abnormalities
Last updated: 7/26/2013

What causes rickets?

Rickets is caused by a lack of vitamin D. A child might not get enough vitamin D if he or she:[1]
  • Has dark skin
  • Spends too little time outside
  • Has on sunscreen all the time when out of doors
  • Doesn't eat foods containing vitamin D because of lactose intolerance or a strict vegetarian diet
  • Is breastfed without receiving vitamin D supplements
  • Can't make or use vitamin D because of a medical disorder such as celiac disease
  • Has an inherited disorder that affects vitamin D levels
  • Last updated: 7/26/2013

    How is rickets diagnosed?

    Rickets is typically diagnosed using specific blood tests and x-rays. Blood tests usually show low levels of calcium and phosphorus and high levels of alkaline phosphatase. Bone x-rays may show areas with calcium loss or changes in bone shape. Bone biopsies are rarely performed, but can confirm the diagnosis of rickets.[2]
    Last updated: 7/26/2013

    What treatment is available for rickets?

    The treatment for rickets depends on the cause of the condition. If rickets is caused by a lack of vitamin D in the diet, then it is usually treated with carefully adjusted levels of vitamin D and calcium. The child's condition may improve within a few weeks of treatment. If rickets is caused by an inherited disorder or another medical condition, a healthcare provider would determine the appropriate treatment.[3]
    Last updated: 7/26/2013

    References
    1. Rickets. MedlinePlus Web site. September 9, 2007; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/rickets.html. Accessed 4/14/2008.
    2. Van Voorhees BW. Rickets. MedlinePlus Web site. August 18, 2008; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000344.htm. Accessed 4/14/2008.
    3. Rickets: What It Is and How It's Treated. FamilyDoctor.org. September 2007; http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/children/parents/special/bone/902.printerview.html. Accessed 4/14/2008.