Rickets is also known as osteomalacia. It is among the most frequent childhood diseases in developing countries. The predominant cause is a vitamin D deficiency in the body, but lack of calcium in the diet may also develop rickets. This disease involves softening and weakening of bones. Rickets is probably occurring during periods of rapid growth, when the body demands high levels of calcium and phosphate. This may be seen in young children 6 to 24 months old and is rare in newborns.
Rickets is at high risk with those dark skinned individual, breast-fed infants whose mother are not exposed to sunlight, individuals on vegetarian diets who do not drink milk or lactose intolerant individuals, individual who get little exposure to sunlight and some people with intestinal problem such as Crohn's disease and coeliac disease may also become short of vitamin D.
There are two sources of vitamin D, a person's diet and formation in the skin through exposure to sunlight. There are small amount of dietary sources of vitamin D. The best ones are fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, and margarines supplemented with vitamin D. The average individual has sufficient vitamin D stored in their body to last for two or three years.
Visit or call your doctor if you experience one of the following signs and symptoms of rickets which include bone pain or softness, dental problems, muscles loss, increased tendency for fractures, skeletal deformity, growth disturbance, decreased level of calcium, and tetany.
Blood test to evaluate calcium and phosphorus level and x-rays of affected bones are used to diagnose rickets.
If you have rickets, you should increase your dietary intake of calcium, phosphates and vitamin D. Sufficient amount of ultraviolet in sunlight each day and adequate supplies of calcium and phosphorus in the diet can avoid rickets. Darker-skinned babies need to be exposed longer to the ultraviolet rays. With these alternate method of ultraviolet light therapy and medicine has been proven to correct rickets.
Recommendations are for 200 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day for infants and children. Children who do not get enough amounts of vitamin D are at bigger risk of rickets. Vitamin D is necessary for allowing the body to uptake calcium for use in proper bone calcification and maintenance. Good sources of dietary vitamin D are vitamin D-fortified formulas and milk.
Sufficient vitamin D levels can also be achieved through dietary supplementation. Vitamin D3 is ideal form since it is more readily absorbed than vitamin D2. Most dermatologists advise vitamin D supplementation as a substitute to unprotected ultraviolet exposure due to the increased risk of skin cancer associated with sun exposure.
This disease may be avoided by maintaining enough intakes of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D. This may need dietary supplements in people with associated gastrointestinal or other disorder. Renal cause of vitamin D should be treated promptly. Levels of calcium and phosphorus should be monitored often in people with renal disorder.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), infants who are breast-fed may not get enough vitamin D from breast milk alone and because of this the AAP suggests that infants who are totally breast-fed receive daily supplements of vitamin D from age 2 months until they begin drinking at least 17 ounces of vitamin D-fortified milk or formula a day.
The rate of rickets has gone down significantly in the recent years due to the increase in fortified foods. However, it is still widespread in many developing countries.
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