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Rickets Causes & Risks

Causes

Rickets and osteomalacia result when there is a vitamin D deficiency in the body. This may occur when:

  • The supply of vitamin D from the diet or sun exposure is inadequate.
  • The metabolism of vitamin D is abnormal.
  • Tissue is resistant to the action of vitamin D.

Vitamin D regulates calcium absorption 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 and osteomalacia are caused by a deficiency of vitamin D. This can result from:

  • Insufficient vitamin D in the diet. In children, this may be related to:
    • Insufficient consumption of vitamin D-fortified milk
    • Insufficient intake of vitamin D supplements to children being breastfed or to children who are lactose intolerant
  • Lack of exposure to sunlight.

Less often, rickets and osteomalacia can be caused by other disorders that affect vitamin D absorption, metabolism, or action in the body such as:

  • Kidney problems:
    • A hereditary disorder of the kidney called vitamin D-resistant rickets
    • Renal tubular acidosis—a nonhereditary kidney disorder which 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    • Outdated tetracycline

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for rickets/osteomalacia include:

  • Age in children: 6 to 24 months old
    • Either the child is consuming breast milk (from a mother who is deficient in vitamin D) or milk not fortified with vitamin D.
  • Age in adults: 50-80 years
  • Lactose intolerance with inadequate intake of vitamin D-fortified milk
  • Family history of rickets
  • Race: Black, especially in association with breastfeeding

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2020 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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