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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 3 minutes read

Rickets is a condition of abnormal bone development in children. In rickets the process of calcification and hardening of bones is disordered. Rickets results in abnormal bone formation that can be associated with pain, growth disturbance and deformity such as bowed legs (where the knees turn outwards).

There are many potential causes of rickets: a poor diet lacking in vitamin D and calcium is the most common cause, as these are both essential for normal bone formation. Rarer causes include an inability for the body to absorb or process vitamin D or other minerals. If these problems are present in an adult the condition is called osteomalacia.

Sources of vitamin D include sunlight and certain foods such as oily fish. Certain foods also have vitamin D added to help prevent rickets, including cereals. Foods that are high in calcium include dairy products and green leafy vegetables.

Where can I get vitamin D and calcium from?

Thankfully rickets due to deficiency from the diet is rare now, since manufacturers starting fortifying certain foods with vitamin D.

If you are concerned that you or your child is suffering from rickets, you should see your doctor.

Symptoms that are suggestive of rickets include:

  • bone pains
  • growth disturbance
  • certain deformities including:
    • being bow-legged
  • joint swelling
  • ongoing dental problems.

Is anyone more at risk of rickets?

Certain people may be more at risk of rickets, including people with dark skin and babies who are breastfed for longer than 6 months.

When should I see my doctor?

If your doctor thinks rickets is a possibility, they will organise blood tests to determine if the levels of vitamin D and calcium are lower than expected. Most people with rickets can be treated with dietary advice and vitamin supplements. The rare, genetic forms of rickets can be more difficult to treat and may require a referral to a specialist.

Supplements to help rickets

Rickets is a condition caused by a deficiency in vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate, which can lead to weakened bones, skeletal deformities, and other health problems. While supplementation with vitamin D, calcium, and phosphate is the primary treatment for rickets, other supplements may also be beneficial in supporting bone health and addressing nutritional deficiencies. Here are some supplements that may help with rickets:

  1. Vitamin D - Vitamin D supplementation is crucial for treating and preventing rickets, as vitamin D deficiency is the primary cause of the condition. The recommended dosage of vitamin D products depends on factors such as age, severity of deficiency, vand individual health status. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphate, essential minerals for bone health.

  2. Calcium - Calcium supplementation may be necessary to ensure adequate intake for bone mineralization and growth. Calcium is a vital mineral for maintaining bone density and strength. Adequate calcium intake, along with vitamin D, helps prevent bone loss and reduces the risk of fractures in individuals with rickets.

  3. Phosphate - In some cases of rickets, phosphate supplementation may be necessary, particularly if there is a concurrent deficiency in this mineral. Phosphate plays a critical role in bone formation and mineralization, working alongside calcium to maintain bone health.

  4. Multivitamins - Multivitamin supplements containing vitamin D, calcium, phosphate, and other essential nutrients may be beneficial for individuals with rickets, especially those who have difficulty meeting their nutritional needs through diet alone. However, it's essential to choose a multivitamin specifically formulated for children or adults, depending on the age group.

  5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil supplements, may support bone health and reduce inflammation, which can be beneficial for individuals with rickets. While more research is needed to determine the specific effects of omega-3 fatty acids on rickets, incorporating these supplements into the diet may have potential benefits for overall bone health.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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