Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets in children

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Deficiency of vitamin D or/and calcium and phosphorus are the causes of the nutritional disorders and rickets disease in children.

A number of factors including lack of sunlight exposure and nutritional vitamin D deficiency cause rickets. Certain metabolic disorders, digestive disorders and genetic factors can also lead to rickets.

Lack of sufficient exposure to sunlight (ultraviolet B light) causes rickets

Most of the vertebrate animals including man produce vitamin D in their skin photochemically, with the exception of cats, dogs and a few other animals.
The ultraviolet B light (UVB) from the sun reacts with 7-dehydrocholesterol in the stratum basale and stratum spinosum of the epidermis layer (upper layer of skin) and by a chemical process cholecalciferol is synthesized.
The melanin pigment deposits in the skin function as UVB filter and the dark-skinned people have to be exposed to, more sunlight than the light colored people to produce the same quantity of cholecalciferol.
Children and people who always live and work indoors and are rarely exposed to sunlight are high risk group for developing deficiency of vitamin D.
The intensity of sunlight decreases with higher latitudes and in children living there deficiency of cholecalciferol arises in winter especially if they are dark skinned.

Nutritional deficiency of calcium and phosphorus causes rickets

Calcium and phosphorus are very important for the formation and growth of bone tissue and bones. Any insufficiency of these minerals lead to bone deformities and rickets disease.

Maternal deficiency of cholecalciferol, calcium and phosphorus causes rickets in the newborns

The deficiency in pregnant women reduces the availability of these to the fetus.
Bone formation in the fetus may be affected and the density of the bones is reduced and results low birth weight.
Further if the shortfall is not cured by supplements, birth deformities occur in the newborn children.
Nursing mother's nutritional deficiency causes rickets disease in the infant.
The human milk has just sufficient quantities of cholecalciferol in a healthy woman.
If the lactating mother is not having sufficient reserves of it and is poorly nourished having little exposure to sunlight, the milk becomes poor in this nutrient.

Lactose intolerance and food habits causes rickets disease

Milk and milk products which are rich in calcium are not tolerated by some people and they have problem digesting them.
Unless they eat other sources of calcium they develop vitamin D deficiency.
Vegans who do not include milk and milk products are among the high risk groups to get vitamin D deficiency.

Malabsorption of fats from intestine causes rickets disease

Vitamin D is fat-soluble and requires dietary fat in the intestine for absorption.
In various conditions and ailments like Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis and in certain liver disorders fat and vitamin D absorption from the intestine is affected and results in its deficiency.

Certain medication causes rickets disease

Phenobarbital and phenytoin are used for preventing and controlling epileptic seizures.
These drugs convert vitamin D into inactive compounds by increasing the hepatic metabolism. This leads to reduction in calcium absorption. Orlistat (weight-loss drug) and cholestyramine (cholesterol-lowering drug) reduces absorption of fat soluble vitamin D.
Corticosteroids like prednisone can affect cholecalciferol metabolism and decrease calcium absorption and result in rickets.

Hereditary predisposition for rickets disease

Vitamin D resistant rickets is hereditary. Here the rickets disease is inherited as a sex-linked genetic disorder. In this condition kidney is impaired from retaining phosphate.
Excessive use of sunscreen and spending more time in-doors causes this ailment.
Understanding the causes and proper preventive measures and treatment can resolve rickets disease.

Related topics:
Rickets disease overview
Osteomalacia (in adults)
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Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets