Rickets is a metabolic disease of the childhood that is practically not present in developed countries of the European Union and the USA. However, it used to be a common illness in the early industrial period such as in England of the 19th century.


The disease is primarily caused by a lack of vitamin D in childhood. Vitamin D ensures correct mineralization of bones and bone formation by improving calcium absorption in the intestine. The rickets was usually a combination of insufficient intake of the vitamin in diet and lack of sunlight that is essential for vitamin D production in our body.


Note: There is also a very rare inherited genetically determined defect associated with a lack of vitamin D, but this is globally only a scarce cause of rickets.


The rickets manifests with symptoms of calcium deficiency in the blood and poor bone mineralization. The bones are soft, easy to deform and easy to break. The affected children suffer from bone pain and frequent fractures. There are growth disorders of bones and teeth with frequent dental caries. Disabled children were short and had typical deformed legs (X-shaped) and deformed chest. They had troubles when walking and due to hypocalcemia they often suffered from muscle weakness and muscle cramps.


The above mentioned clinical symptoms should be followed by blood test to evaluate blood level of calcium (calcemia) and vitamin D. Bone X-ray may inform us about insufficient bone density.

Prevention and treatment

It is important to ensure adequate intake of both calcium and vitamin D in diet. If needed, vitamin D may be also supplemented by some oral medications. In addition, it is advisable to have an adequate exposure to sunlight to improve vitamin D production by the body metabolism. Already present deformations may be solved by orthopedic surgical procedures.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Contact: jiri.stefanek@seznam.cz
 Sources: basic text sources