UK Doctors have reported that rickets is on the rise in Britain and that this resurgence could be a product of modern day society. Rickets is a disorder that is caused by a deficiency of vitamin D, phosphate or calcium. As a result, the bones can become soft and weak. Vitamin D assists the body in regulating both phosphorus and calcium levels. When the blood levels of these minerals are inefficient, hormones that cause the bones to release calcium and phosphorus are produced. The bones become fragile as they lose these essential minerals.
This disorder surged among children during the Victorian era and is currently seen to be prevalent in Britain once again. During the 1950s, cod liver oil was used to prevent the onset of the disorder. This proved effective, as rickets all but disappeared. However, during the last 15 years it has been reported that the number of children hospitalized and diagnosed with the disorder has been on the rise once again. The severe increase in diagnoses between 1995 and 2011 depicts the drastic return of the illness. In 1995 a total of 183 cases were reported, but that number shot up to a staggering 762 cases in 2011. Health experts say that even though this seems extreme enough, the actual number is suspected to be much higher.
In response to these reports, Dr. Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for Britain, proposes that children under the age of five should be provided with free vitamins. This has not yet been approved as a viable solution, but authorities are looking into it.
Doctors say that rickets is completely preventable and that the resurgence of this health disorder could be a product of society’s unhealthy lifestyle choices. It has been suggested that the modern day lifestyle is partly to blame because children are spending more time than ever before indoors with little to no sunlight exposure, which is a direct source of the vital vitamin D. It has also been suggested that with the increase of skin cancer comes the increased use of sunblock and less Vitamin D is able to be absorbed because of this. A poor diet that lacks certain nutrients and vitamins essential for healthy development and growth is also a large contributing factor.
Symptoms and signs of rickets include, but are not limited to, pain in the bones, deferred teeth growth, deformed teeth, irregular skull shape, bowlegs, and spinal and bone – including the pelvis, ribs and breastbone – deformities. Patients with more severe symptoms experience involuntary seizures and/or muscle contractions.
Dr. Laura Tosi, an orthopedic surgeon situated in Washington, DC, says that children who cease to drink milk after being weaned from nursing and children who do not spend time playing outdoors are more susceptible to the disorder. She goes on to say that the increase in rickets over the past 15 years is due to the way our society has changed. All of these factors have a negative implication for a child’s bone health. According to Dr. Tosi, children diagnosed with rickets can recover with no lasting implications, however, there are severe cases where surgery is required. These severe cases are usually because of prolonged vitamin D deficiency and the bowing of the legs are so severe that the bones often need to be broken so that they can be straightened.
Vitamin D intake can be increased by following a healthy diet as there are many foods (aim for as natural and unprocessed as possible) that contain Vitamin D. Some of these foods include fish, eggs and milk. Vitamin A contributes to a healthy immune system and eyesight. Vitamin C assists in boosting the immune system and also helps the body in assimilating iron. All the above vitamins contribute to healthy development in children. Healthy living and eating can just as easily become a product of society and help prevent the resurgence of rickets in children. Enjoy a walk in the sunshine with young children; fresh air does wonders for overall health – not only for children but for adults as well.
By Jessica Rosslee
Medical News Today
Nutrition Data – A comprehensive list of foods that provide Vitamin D