Rickets is disease resulting from a vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate shortage in children. It causes bones to soften and weaken.

Rickets
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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:

  • The supply of vitamin D from diet or sun exposure is too low.
  • The way the body processes vitamin D is not typical.
  • Tissue does not respond to the action of vitamin D.
  • There is not enough calcium or phosphorous in the diet or it cannot be absorbed
  • Kidney disease is present.

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:

  • Not enough vitamin D in the diet. In children, this may be related to:
    • Not drinking enough vitamin D-fortified milk
    • Not giving enough vitamin D supplements to children being breastfed or to children who are lactose intolerant
  • Lack of exposure to sunlight

Less often, rickets can be caused by other disorders that affect vitamin D absorption or calcium metabolism such as:

  • Kidney problems:
    • A hereditary disorder of the kidney called vitamin D-resistant rickets
    • Renal tubular acidosis—a non-hereditary kidney disorder that causes bone calcium to dissolve
    • Chronic kidney failure
    • Long-term kidney dialysis
  • Diseases of the small intestines with malabsorption
  • Disorders of the liver or pancreas disease
  • Cancer
  • Certain drugs, such as:
    • Certain seizure medications, such as phenytoin or phenobarbital
    • Acetazolamide
    • Ammonium chloride
    • Disodium etidronate
    • Fluoride treatment
  • Toxicity or poisoning from:
    • Cadmium
    • Lead
    • Aluminum
    • Outdated tetracycline