Rickets is the softening and weakening of bones in children, usually because of an extreme and prolonged vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the gastrointestinal tract. A deficiency of vitamin D makes it difficult to maintain proper calcium and phosphorus levels in bones, which can cause rickets.

If a vitamin D or calcium deficiency causes rickets, adding vitamin D or calcium to the diet generally corrects any resulting bone problems for your child. Rickets due to a genetic condition may require additional medications or other treatment. Some skeletal deformities caused by rickets may need corrective surgery.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Signs and symptoms of rickets may include:

  • Delayed growth
  • Pain in the spine, pelvis and legs
  • Muscle weakness

Because rickets softens the growth plates at the ends of a child's bones, it can cause skeletal deformities such as:

  • Bowed legs
  • Thickened wrists and ankles
  • Breastbone projection

When to see a doctor

Talk to your doctor if your child develops bone pain, muscle weakness or obvious skeletal deformities.

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