Avinash Shinde is a call centre agent who works night shift and sleep throughout most of the day. He hardly gets to see sunlight for the past many years. For the last few weeks, he was experiencing muscle cramps as well as pain and tenderness in arms and legs. So he went to consult a doctor. He was diagnosed with the bone disease ‘osteomalacia’ (known as rickets in children).
These days most people (both adults and children) prefer to stay indoors in their air-conditioned rooms playing computer games, watching TV or working on laptop. This trend is precarious for the development and preservation of human bones. In the absence of adequate exposure to sunlight, which is the only natural source of Vitamin D for humans, there occurs a condition called Rickets. Following are some causes f weakness in bones:
Vitamin D plays an important role in the absorption of calcium by our bones and sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D. Inadequate exposure to sunlight is the leading cause of rickets. Children who are exclusively breastfed for a very long period of time are also found to suffer from rickets because breast milk is a poor source of vitamin D. Those suffering from kidney or liver disorders may also develop rickets because of interference with the absorption and conversion of vitamin D to active form. Alcoholism, pregnancy and obesity are the other risk factors.
Rickets is identified by softening and weakening of bones.
- Those suffering from rickets feel pain in their bones, stunted growth and deformities. Bone fractures are very frequent.
- Stooped posture, bowed legs, broad ankle and wrist bones, and chest deformities may occur if the timely treatment and care is not given.
- Dental deformities like delayed formation of teeth, dental caries/cavities and defects in the teeth are also found to occur in some patients.
- The bone development in children is heavily harmed due to rickets. Skeletal deformities occur in extreme cases like asymmetrical skull, bowlegs, bumps in the ribcage, breastbone pushed forward and pelvic or spine deformities.
- Though rare but drowsiness and seizures may also occur
Prevention is better than cure
- Prevent rickets by increasing the dietary intake of calcium and phosphorus.
- Green leafy vegetables and dairy products like milk, cheese and curd are rich in these minerals. Even, eggs and fish oil are also good source for calcium and vitamin D.
- According to Simon Pearce, a Professor of Endocrinology at Newcastle University, it’s good to have 20 to 30 minutes of exposure to the sun two to three times a week (as told to a news report in The Guardian).
- Treatment of rickets is through Vitamin D and calcium supplementation along with eating a good diet. Ensure your family and kids get sufficient calcium in their food as well as spend some time in sun every day.
- Mornings and evenings are the best time because sun is not very harsh.