Rickets – Victorian Myth or Modern Reality?

The bone disease of rickets (bone softening in children that leads to deformity and fractures) is something that we associate with Victorian times or malnourished populations in underdeveloped nations.

This is a condition that arises due to a deficiency of Vitamin D and can also occur in adults; a bone disorder called Osteomalacia. Stunted growth, knock knees or bowed legs may be signs of this disease among kids. For adults, there could be difficulty in getting up from a squatting position, bone pain or difficulty climbing the stairs.


Why Rickets seems to have made a comeback

Though rickets is associated chiefly with childhood malnutrition, this condition is making something of a comeback in recent times due to a variety of factors.

Today kids are a spending less time playing out of doors and more time indoors, in artificial light. This prevents sun exposure, which is the most significant source of Vitamin D.

There is also some amount of scaremongering regarding skin cancer, which causes people to cover up and reduce sun exposure.

Diet is a significant contributor to rickets and a modern junk food diet that is lacking in essential nutrients can be as bad as malnutrition in a sense.

There is also a rising trend of going vegan, with even kids eschewing milk and milk products, one of the child sources of calcium, the bone building nutrient.

Purely breast fed infants may have a Vitamin D deficiency and may need to have their diet supplemented by Vitamin D. Vitamin D fortified food is also a good idea in the early years.

Vitamin D is important for bones because it is required for calcium absorption. Calcium is best absorbed in the presence of vitamin D and so its deficiency impacts our bones negatively; also causing other health problems.

How to get enough Vitamin D

There are two ways to get enough vitamin D – one is through food sources and the other by way of sun exposure.

Foods that are a good source of Vitamin D are egg yolks and milk as well as fish. These items are good to add to a child’s diet even for other reasons. About 10 to 20 minutes of sun exposure in a day is also required – best obtained in the early morning or late afternoon.

Severe deficiencies can be resolved by calcium supplements or even injections of Vitamin D. The condition of rickets is easily preventable and also reversible with the right treatment.