November 14, 2018

Rickets: Symptoms, causes, prevention and treatment

Pediatric Orthopedics

Rickets is a bone disease that causes weak bones, bowed legs and other bone deformities.

Commonly considered a disease of the past, rickets has not been eliminated in the world and in recent years has been more common in the United States.

How do you get rickets?

Children with rickets do not get enough calcium, phosphorus or Vitamin D, which help grow healthy bones. In some cases, rickets is inherited.

Risk factors of rickets

Breast milk contains little Vitamin D, which is why rickets is seen most commonly in babies who are breastfed for a long period of time. Other factors include:

  • Low calcium
  • Lack of sun exposure
  • Darker skin
  • Poor diet
  • Lactose intolerant

Symptoms of rickets

  • Drowsiness
  • Seizures
  • Weak muscle tone
  • Delayed development
  • Decreased growth
  • Stooped posture
  • Bowed legs
  • Widening of the wrists and ankle bones
  • Chest and rib deformities

Physician examination

After a complete medical history review, your physician will perform a brief physical exam on your child to look for symptoms. X-rays and blood tests are usually necessary to confirm the diagnosis.


Can rickets be cured?

Supplements such as Vitamin D and calcium immediately help the healing process.Recovery may take months, but deformities of the bones may get better over time without surgery. Surgery may be necessary in advanced cases to correct severely bowed or knock-kneed legs.  In extreme cases, chest or pelvic deformities may be permanent.

How to prevent rickets

  • If your infant is exclusively breastfed, they should be supplemented with 400 IU of Vitamin D every day; nursing mothers should take 4000 IU of Vitamin D to increase Vitamin D in the breast milk
  • Infants need 400 mg of calcium daily (about one and a half cups of milk)
  • Older children and adolescents should get 1000 to 1500 IU of Vitamin D every day
  • A teen might need 1500 to 2000 mg of calcium to form strong bones
  • Lactose intolerant children can be supplemented with calcium in liquid, gummy or chewable pill forms.

Learn more about pediatric orthopedic care at OrthoIndy.

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Megan Golden

By Megan Golden

Megan is the current Marketing Team Lead at OrthoIndy. Megan graduated from Ball State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising and communications studies minor and has been with OrthoIndy since June 2012.

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