Rickets is a condition in which an individual suffers from a vitamin D deficiency, and it is particularly common in children. Treatment depends on the severity of the disease and the cause, but can include vitamin D supplements, changes to the diet to include more vitamin D, or in severe cases, surgery to correct damage already done by the deficiency. Exposure to vitamin D from other sources, such as sunlight, can also help.
Rickets is most common in children, but is rare in developed countries. When the condition occurs in infants, one of the most common causes is that the baby is fed only with a diet of breast milk. This can lead to vitamin D deficiency as well as a lack of calcium needed to keep bones strong and healthy. Infants that undergo medical treatment for rickets will often be started on milk supplemented with vitamin D, or on other fortified foods.
Several other foods may also be added to an individual's diet in order to help correct the deficiency. Fish and fish oil are frequently used in order to boost the amount of vitamin D and calcium in the system. A combination of vitamins can help the immediate situation, but the underlying cause for the deficiency must also be addressed in the treatment for rickets to keep the condition from developing again. This can result in a continuation of the vitamin supplements or a change in diet.
In cases where rickets is diagnosed quickly, the damage done to the body can usually repair itself. This type of damage can include bone tenderness, pain in major areas like the spine and legs, frequent fractures, and soft teeth. Individuals with rickets often lose muscle mass, yet once the disease is managed, muscles generally are rebuilt by the body. Depending on the advancement of the disease and the age of the individual, more extreme measures may need to be taken in order to combat skeletal deformities that can occur from a prolonged case.
Spinal deformities like those that occur in individuals with scoliosis can sometimes be corrected with the application of a brace or other corrective equipment. Children in particular are likely to develop physical deformities from prolonged cases of rickets, and may also require leg braces to correct bowed legs or deformities in the hips. Some of the symptoms that can develop because of the condition, such as short stature, can persist into adulthood as permanent damage from the deficiency.