Rickets is disease resulting from a vitamin D , calcium, or phosphate shortage in children. It causes bones to soften and weaken.
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Rickets results when there is a vitamin D, calcium, or phosphorous shortage in a child's body. This may occur when:
Vitamin D controls how calcium is absorbed in the body. It also controls levels of calcium and phosphate in bone. Vitamin D is absorbed in the intestines from food. Vitamin D is also produced by the skin during exposure to sunlight.
Most often, rickets is caused by a shortage of vitamin D. This can result from:
Less often, rickets can be caused by other disorders that affect vitamin D absorption or calcium metabolism such as:

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your child's chances of getting rickets include:


Symptoms may include:


The doctor will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your child's bodily fluid and bone may be tested. This can be done with:
Pictures may be taken of structures inside your child's body. This can be done with an x-ray .


Treatment attempts to:

Treating the Underlying Cause

Treatment of the underlying cause may include:
  • Adding the following to your child's diet:
    • Vitamin D-fortified dairy products
    • Foods high in vitamin D, such as fatty fish, egg yolk, and green vegetables
    • Foods high in calcium
    • Supplements of vitamin D, calcium, and other minerals
    • Biologically active vitamin D
  • Adequate, but not excessive, exposure to sunlight
  • Avoiding medication that may be causing poor calcium absorption
  • Treating underlying illnesses

Treating Symptoms

Treatment to relieve or correct symptoms may include:
  • Wearing braces to reduce or prevent bony deformities
  • In severe cases, surgery to correct bony deformities


To help prevent rickets, your child should:


American Academy of Pediatrics

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


About Kids Health

Alberta Human Services


Balk SJ; Council on Environmental Health; Section on Dermatology. Ultraviolet radiation: a hazard to children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;127(3):e791-817.

Grant WB, Boucher BJ. Requirements for Vitamin D across the life span. Biol Res Nurs. 2011;13(2):120-133.

Rickets: what it is and how it's treated. American Academy of Family Physicians' website. Available at: Updated November 2010. Accessed July 30, 2013.

Vitamin D deficiency in children (infancy through adolescence). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated June 5, 2013. Accessed July 30, 2013.

Wagner CL, Greer FR, American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding, American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. Prevention of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2008;122:1142-1152.

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