Rickets epidemiology and demographics
Rickets is a softening of the bones in children potentially leading to fractures and deformity. Rickets is among the most frequent childhood diseases in many developing countries. The predominant cause is a vitamin D deficiency, but lack of adequate calcium in the diet may also lead to rickets. Although it can occur in adults, the majority of cases occur in children suffering from severe malnutrition, usually resulting from famine or starvation during the early stages of childhood. Osteomalacia is the term used to describe a similar condition occurring in adults, generally due to a deficiency of vitamin D. The origin of the word "rickets" is unknown. The Greek derived word "rachitis" (meaning "inflammation of the spine") was later adopted as the scientific term for rickets, due chiefly to the words' similarity in sound.
Those at higher risk for developing rickets include:
- Breast-fed infants whose mothers are not exposed to sunlight
- Breast-fed infants who are not exposed to sunlight
- Individuals not consuming fortified milk, such as those who are lactose intolerant
Individuals with red hair have a decreased risk for rickets due to their greater production of vitamin D in sunlight.