Rickets (also called osteomalacia, rachitis) is a condition in which a child’s bones become soft or deformed due to a lack of calcium and phosphorus. It happens when there is not enough vitamin D in the diet or received through sunlight.

Infants who breastfeed only may not get enough vitamin D, as human breast milk does not contain enough. Rickets is rare in the United States, but when it does occur, it usually happens during growth spurts in a child. In those times, the body needs extra calcium and phosphate. Between six and 24 months is the most common age for this to happen.

Symptoms include bone pain, loss of muscle strength and cramping, tooth deformities, slow growth, more bone fractures, and skeletal deformities.

Treatment by adding calcium, phosphorus, or vitamin D will get rid of most symptoms. Food sources of vitamin D include fish liver and processed milk. Moderate exposure to sunlight is recommended. When rickets is the result of a metabolic problem, vitamin D supplementation may be prescribed.

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