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Health Condition

Rickets/Osteomalacia

About This Condition

Rickets is an abnormal bone formation in children resulting from inadequate calcium in their bones. 

This lack of calcium can result from inadequate dietary calcium,1 inadequate exposure to sunshine (needed to make vitamin D), or from not eating enough vitamin D—a nutrient needed for calcium absorption. Vitamin D is found in animal foods, such as egg yolks and dairy products.

Rickets can also be caused by conditions that impair absorption of vitamin D and/or calcium, even when these nutrients are consumed in appropriate amounts. Activation of vitamin D in the body requires normal liver and kidney function. Damage to either organ can cause rickets. Some variations of rickets do not respond well to supplementation with vitamin D and calcium. Proper diagnosis must be made by a healthcare professional.

Osteomalacia is an adult version of rickets. This condition is treated with vitamin D, sometimes in combination with calcium supplements. Osteomalacia should be diagnosed, and its treatment monitored, by a doctor.

Symptoms

In children, symptoms of rickets include delayed sitting, crawling, and walking; pain when walking; and the development of bowlegs or knock-knees. Symptoms of osteomalacia include bowing of the legs and a decrease in height.

Other Therapies

Treatment of rickets and osteomalacia sometimes include intravenous calcium. Some health care providers may recommend the use of artificial ultraviolet B radiation or increased exposure to sunlight.

References

1. Thacher TD, Fischer PR, Pettifor JM, et al. A comparison of calcium, vitamin D, or both for nutritional rickets in Nigerian children. N Engl J Med 1999;341:563-8.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2018.

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