Rickets: concerns over the worldwide increase

J Fam Health Care. 2011 Mar-Apr;21(2):25-9.


Rickets is a childhood disease that causes a softening of the bones, potentially leading to fractures and deformity. Eighty years ago it was thought to have largely been eradicated from the U.K. However a recent increase in cases of rickets, not just in Britain but around the world, has proven this isn't the case. Today the disease affects children from all types of socio-economic backgrounds, not just the poorer ones, and it is primarily caused by low levels of vitamin D and certain foods. In January 2011 the government's chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies recommended all children aged six months to five should be given vitamin D supplements, particularly during winter months when natural sunshine is limited. The irony is that the advice in recent years for children to wear a high factor sunscreen and remain covered up while playing outdoors are partly felt to be behind the reason for its re-emergence. Parents and health professionals alike were shocked when it was revealed that a school girl living on the Isle of Wight developed rickets precisely because of her mother's vigilance at following sun safety rules. NICE, in their latest report (Jan 2011) stated that: "Exposure to the sun has a number of benefits. For example, it increases people's sense of wellbeing, allows them to synthesise vitamin D and provides opportunities for physical activity". A tendency for children to stay indoors and watch TV or play on computer games, rather than play outside when the sun is shining, is arguably also another contributing factor.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Prevalence
  • Rickets / diagnosis
  • Rickets / drug therapy
  • Rickets / epidemiology
  • Rickets / prevention & control*
  • Risk Factors
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use


  • Vitamin D