Rickets: what it is, what its symptoms are and how it is treated

The rickets it is a rare disease that affects bones, making them “softer” and prone to breaking easily. It is a much more common condition in children than in adults, which manifests itself with a number of rather typical symptoms. Let's try to see together the main distinguishing features of this disease, and its treatments.

What are the symptoms of rickets?

The rickets it manifests itself through some main symptoms, such as:

  • retarded growth,
  • muscle weakness,
  • pain in the bones of the spine, pelvis and legs,
  • curved or deformed legs.

It should also be noted that rickets can also have other symptoms, such as those related to the onset of dental problems, such as caries and dental structure damage.

What causes rickets?

There lack of vitamin D. seems to be the determinant of most cases of rickets. Vitamin D helps the bones to absorb calcium and phosphorus, two fundamental elements for their growth. If your baby is not getting enough vitamin D in his body, then his body may not have the nutrients it needs to make bones strong.

Also for this reason rickets is more common in children from 6 to 24 months of age: their bones grow rapidly during this period, requiring a high intake of phosphorus and calcium.

However, there are some higher risk factors in children, such as:

  • have dark skin,
  • not exposing yourself to enough sunlight,
  • not eating enough foods containing vitamin D, calcium or phosphorus,
  • breastfeed without taking a vitamin D supplement,
  • having a disease that prevents their body from making or absorbing vitamin D. One example is celiac disease.

We also remember that rickets can also be "handed down" in the family, and children can inherit it.

How is rickets diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask for some specific information on your child's family history and on your child's health and diet. Your baby will also undergo a full physical exam. Blood tests and bone x-rays also help the doctor determine whether or not the child has rickets, thus directing him to the treatment that will be deemed most useful.

Is it possible to prevent or avoid rickets?

In most cases, you can help your child prevent rickets through some precautions. For example, it is very important to make sure that you are getting enough vitamin D and enough calcium, relative to your needs.

Also, if your baby is breastfed or consumes more breast milk, he needs a vitamin D supplement. This is because breast milk doesn't contain enough vitamin D to fully meet the baby's needs. Of course, it is best to avoid giving your child vitamin supplements unless your doctor recommends them. So ask your doctor for more information and, in particular, directions for identifying the right method of supplying vitamin D, and the correct dosage.

If your child is already eating solid foods, then their diet should be better managed. In particular, it is a good habit to offer him foods high in vitamin D, such as breakfast cereals and orange juice, and calcium, such as milk, cheese and salad vegetables.

However, always ask your doctor how long your baby should expose you in the sun, and remember that babies need protection from direct sunlight.

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Treatment for rickets: how can it be cured?

Treatment depends on the type of rickets of your child. For children who do not have enough nutrients, for example, the doctor will prescribe supplements for vitamin D and calcium. Your baby's muscle pain and weakness should therefore improve within a few weeks. If your child has bone defects caused by rickets, he may need braces or surgery to correct the problem.

For children who inherit rickets or have an underlying disease that caused the rickets, they may need to see a specialist instead.

Is it possible to live with rickets?

Most cases of rickets go away once the baby has had enough vitamin D. However, there may be some lasting effects, or defects that require further treatment, such as orthodontic appliances or surgery. As a result, the child may need specific therapy, and it is also possible that the child may need a specific diet to stay healthy.

What to ask your doctor

When contacting and sharing with your doctor it is advisable to ask some questions that will improve the level of knowledge of the disease and, consequently, also the possibility of supporting the recovery of the right well-being by your child.

For example, ask what the likely cause of rickets is, as well as whether your child needs a vitamin D or calcium supplement (and, if so, how long should they take it). Further, you may ask what you can do at home to make sure your child gets enough vitamin D, and whether or not it is safe to leave your child in the sun without sunscreen, or what are the possible complications of rickets.

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