Alternative Names: Osteomalacia in children; Vitamin D deficiency; Renal rickets; Hepatic rickets

What are Rickets?

Rickets are a childhood bone disorder in which bones soften and are likely to fractures and deformity. The main cause of rickets is the lack of vitamin D. Not enough calcium and phosphate can also be a cause of rickets. (A.D.A.M. Inc, 2014)


Vitamin D helps the body control calcium and  phosphate levels. If the blood level of these minerals become low, the body will create hormones that cause calcium and phosphate to be released from bones. Which leads to bones being soft and weak (A.D.A.M. Inc, 2014). Rickets may occur in children who have disorders of the liver, or who cannot convert vitamin D to it's active form. (Brunner,2010)

Vitamin D is absorbed from food and produced from the sunlight. Lack of vitamin D being made by the skin can occur in people who:

  • Live in climates with little exposure to sunlight
  • Must stay indoors
  • Work indoors during the daylight hours

You may not get enough vitamin D in your diet if you:

  • Are  lactose intolerant
  • Do not drink milk products
  • Follow a vegetarian diet  

                                                                     (A.D.A.M. Inc, 2014)

As you can see the difference between the bones of a normal anatomy and one that has rickets. The rickets cause the bone to be wide and weak, which allows it to have holes and cracks in it (easily allowing it to break).

It is most likely to occur in children during periods of rapid growth, when the body needs high levels of calcium and phosphate. Rickets may be seen in children ages 6 - 24 months. (A.D.A.M. Inc, 2014)


  • Bone pain or tenderness     
  • Dental Deformities
  • Impaired growth
  • Increased bone fractures
  • Muscle cramps
  • Skeletal deformities


The aim of treatment is to relieve symptoms and correct the cause of the condition.The cause needs to be treated in order to prevent the disease from returning.Replacing calcium, phosphorus, or vitamin D that is lacking will eliminate most symptoms of rickets. (A.D.A.M. Inc, 2014)

Positioning or bracing may be used to reduce or prevent deformities. Some skeletal deformities may require corrective surgery. (A.D.A.M. Inc, 2014)


To prevent rickets you should make sure you are getting enough calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D in your diet (Brunner,2010). People who have certain disorders may need to take supplements.(A.D.A.M. Inc, 2014)

Dietary sources of vitamin D

Fish, liver, and processed milk are foods rich in vitamin D. Exposure to everyday amounts of sunlight is encouraged

Dietary Reference Intakes

The link above talks about DRI's and how much of each mineral, nutrient and vitamins you should intake.

Presence Today

Rickets have declined in frequency but still are a problem. Living in the northern countries can sometimes effect the amount of sunlight we get; compared to the ones in the south which are warmer (being a bigger problem). Lack of sunlight reduces the amount of vitamin D that is being absorbed by the skin. It is more likely to have rickets in the northern hemisphere then in the southern. Also more chance in colder months due to not as much sun being out.  

Overall, the nutritional illness rickets is caused by the lack of vitamin D, calcium and phosphate. Symptoms include weak bones, bone fractures and impaired growth. Treatment includes eating foods rich in vitamin D (but not to much vitamin D; that can be harmful) and surgery is possible. This is most likely to happen in children.

Brunner, S (2010,January 23)."What is Rickets? What Causes Rickets?". Medical News Today. Retrieved April 10,2014, from,http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/176941

Rickets:MedlinePlus A    Encyclopedia. U.S National Library of Medicine.Last Updated February 26,2014. Retrieved April 9,2014, fromhttp://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlinplus/ency/article/000344.htm

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