Screening for nutritional rickets in a community

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2016 Nov:164:139-144. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2015.09.008. Epub 2015 Sep 10.


Concern has been expressed about the rising incidence of nutritional rickets with its associated long-term sequelae in children globally. In order to address the condition worldwide, it is imperative that accurate figures of its incidence are available particularly in at-risk communities. In order to obtain these figures, various screening tools and diagnostic criteria have been used with no standardization of methodologies, resulting in varying prevalences which may under- or over-estimate the prevalence depending of the techniques used. This review discusses the advantages and disadvantages of various screening tests used to diagnose rickets in communities. Clinical signs characteristic of rachitic deformities have been used extensively, but are likely to over-estimate the prevalence and are dependent on the clinical skills of the observer. Biochemical tests such as alkaline phosphatase and 25-hydroxyvitamin D have also been proposed. There is no consensus on the usefulness of alkaline phosphatase as a screening tool, while there is general agreement that the measurement of vitamin D status is unhelpful in screening for rickets. Finally, the confirmation of the presence of active rickets in suspected infants and children is dependent on radiographic findings, although these may be less helpful in adolescents whose growth plates might be closed or nearly so. In order to obtain uniformity in screening for rickets globally, the is a need for consensus among public health specialists, paediatric endocrinologists and those interested in paediatric bone disease as to the best methods to be employed to determine the prevalence of rickets, particularly in communities with limited resources.

Keywords: Children; Community; Infants; Nutritional; Rickets; Screening.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / blood
  • Bone and Bones / pathology
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Radiography
  • Rickets / blood
  • Rickets / diagnosis*
  • Rickets / epidemiology*
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / diagnosis
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology


  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D
  • Alkaline Phosphatase