A lack of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate causes a skeletal disorder known as rickets. These are essential nutrients for bone health, and without them, bones become brittle and soft. 

Your bones cannot grow without these nutrients, and an inadequate supply of these nutrients can result in stunted growth and bone deformities. Rickets is mostly diagnosed in children, but adults that never had it treated in childhood can have spinal deformities and dental defects.

Studies have also discovered a link between rickets and heart health. Individuals with long-term, severe, and untreated cases of rickets have an increased risk of developing heart disease. 

What Causes Rickets?

Vitamin D is necessary for your body to absorb calcium and phosphate, and you can get this vitamin from food as well as the sunlight. When you are deficient in vitamin D, your body produces hormones that cause calcium and phosphate to be released from the bones, weakening them. 

Rickets can be caused by a lack of vitamin D in the diet, or as the result of a medical condition such as celiac disease that interferes with the absorption of vitamin D. There are also rare inherited disorders that cause low phosphorus levels that can also contribute to rickets.

A lack of vitamin D and rickets also causes a condition known as hypocalcemia. Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium, and without it, calcium levels are dangerously low. Hypocalcemia significantly increases the risk of heart failure, as calcium is essential for heart muscle function.

Rickets Symptoms

The symptoms of rickets include:

♦ Pain in the bones
♦ Stunted growth
♦ Bone fractures
♦ Teeth deformities such as holes in the enamel
♦ Skeletal deformities such as bowed knees or oddly shaped skull
♦ Delayed motor skills
♦ Muscle weakness
♦ Curved spine
♦ Pelvic deformities

Diagnosing Rickets 

Rickets can be diagnosed based on a physical examination that would check for tenderness in the bones by lightly pressing them. There are also blood tests to measure calcium and phosphate levels in the blood and bone x-rays to identify any deformities. 

In some rare cases, a bone biopsy may be done to remove a small section of bone for a more in-depth lab analysis. 

The Rickets-Heart Connection

Studies have found that there is a significant link between rickets and the development of heart failure. The relationship between the two conditions lies in the levels of calcium in the body. 

Rickets is caused by a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is important in assisting the absorption of calcium, and without it, hypocalcemia develops. 

Hypocalcemia is marked by low levels of calcium. Calcium does more for the body than strengthen bones. It plays an essential role in cardiac muscle contraction and metabolism. Consistently low levels of calcium can interfere with heart function and increase the risk of heart failure. 

The lack of vitamin D associated with rickets can impact your heart indirectly through blood sugar levels. Vitamin D works to reduce insulin resistance, so without it, excess blood sugar remains in the blood. Elevated blood sugar can damage blood vessels increasing the risk of hypertension, atherosclerosis, and heart disease. 

Rickets Treatment

Treatment for rickets focuses on replacing the missing nutrients, and once healthy levels are restored, many of the symptoms of rickets will be eliminated. 

Vitamin D and calcium supplements are essential for reversing the symptoms of rickets and restoring strength and health to bones. It is important to follow dosing instructions clearly, as too much calcium and vitamin D can be dangerous. 

If there are any deformities, braces may be needed to help position the bones correctly as they continue to grow. 

As for heart health, it is important to get rickets treated right away to reduce the damage done to heart tissues from lack of calcium. Maintaining recommended levels of vitamin D and calcium can protect the heart from developing any problems. 

Rickets Diet

The key to preventing rickets and treating it successfully is to increase your intake of vitamin D and calcium in your diet. 

Foods known to be high in vitamin D include:

♦ Eggs
♦ Salmon
♦ Liver
♦ Breakfast cereals
♦ Cheese
♦ Yogurt
♦ Almond milk and dairy milk

Foods known to be high in calcium include:

♦ Dairy
♦ Almonds
♦ Kale
♦ Okra
♦ Sardines
♦ Figs
♦ Oranges
♦ Sesame seeds
♦ Spinach
♦ Soybeans

Natural Treatments for Rickets

Outside of dietary changes, the most natural treatment for rickets is getting more exposure to sunlight. Your skin produces vitamin D as a result of being in the sun. 

People today do not spend as much time outdoors and are more likely to be covered in sunscreen. Both of these prevent sunlight exposure and valuable vitamin D production. To get as much vitamin D as your bones need, you need to spend time outdoors. As long as you are not getting burnt, exposure to the sun has many protective benefits. 

Maintaining vitamin D levels will prevent and treat rickets, but you can also add natural ingredients to protect your heart. With rickets and heart health being closely linked, it is important to promote heart health too. Natural and clinically proven ingredients that can boost heart function include:

♦ Berberine bark extract
Lion’s mane mushroom
♦ Niacin
♦ Red yeast rice

Variations of Rickets

Rickets is primarily a childhood condition, but it can develop in adults as well. When adults are diagnosed with rickets, it’s known as osteomalacia. This condition is marked by soft bones and presents similar symptoms to rickets. 

This condition differs from osteoporosis in that osteomalacia is characterized by soft bones and osteoporosis causes you to have porous and brittle bones. Having osteomalacia increases your risk for breaks, especially in the ribs, legs, and spine. 

Osteomalacia can be caused later in life by vitamin D deficiency as well as celiac disease and kidney disorders. Celiac disease can damage your intestinal lining, which will prevent you from absorbing nutrients properly. 

Your kidneys and liver are both involved in the activation of vitamin D, so any damage or problems with these organs can interfere with the vitamin levels in your body. 

Rickets Statistics

♦ Rickets affect 1 in 200,000 children.

♦ Vitamin D deficiency is a more common cause for rickets than genetic mutations.

♦ Studies found that recent cases of rickets compared to cases from two decades ago have almost doubled.

♦ New infant formulas reduce the risk of rickets significantly during the first 2 years of life.

Rickets and Disability

Because rickets can cause severe bone deformities, especially when left untreated, it can impair daily activities. As a result, you may not be able to perform certain tasks or jobs. In severe and untreated conditions, rickets can be considered a disability, but most cases can be treated to prevent this from happening. 

Untreated rickets that leads to heart failure can also lead to a reduction in activity and an increased risk of premature death.

Rickets and Children

Diagnosis for rickets is typically made between 3 and 36 months of age. Since the body is still developing, there is time to correct a child’s diet and lifestyle so they can get the nutrients they need to correct the problem. 

Starting treatment right away allows for the elimination of symptoms, and a child can continue to grow properly as they get older. If the deficiency is the result of a genetic condition or absorption-related problem such as celiac disease, a vitamin D supplement will be needed for life, to keep bones at optimal strength.

What Is the Long-Term Outlook?

Rickets are relatively rare these days and can easily be prevented. A diet with adequate vitamin D, calcium, and phosphate can prevent rickets, and for those with genetic or absorption issues, the levels of these nutrients need to be closely monitored. 

Adequate nutrition, along with proper sun exposure, can reduce the risk of rickets and treat the condition successfully. The sooner treatment begins, the better the chances of healthy skeletal development will be, and the better protection you will have against heart failure.