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A deficiency of vitamin D can be harmful. Though it may not sound so serious, it may lead to permanent health problems. Just like other vitamins, our body need vitamin D in order to maintain sound health. Rickets in adults is caused by the deficiency of this vital vitamin.
Rickets is a disease caused by the deficiency of vitamin D. What happens is, the lack of calcium and phosphorus is sensed by the body, and then it takes the required supplement of calcium and phosphorus from the bones, which ultimately results in weakening or deformation of the bones. If Vitamin D and calcium, are not in appropriate proportion, may cause severe bone problems. Rickets leads to deformation or underdevelopment of the bones in children because of the lack of calcium and phosphate. This is the reason the bones tends to become soft, weak and deformed.
The source of vitamin D is a proper diet. It is also produced by the body on exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium and phosphate, the deficiency of which causes the weakening of the bones. Rickets is majorly seen in children living in cold climates, where there is little or no sunlight. It also develops in those who don't drink milk. There are few possibilities where the disease can be inherited.
Rickets is characterized by deformation of the bones like the spine and chest, the legs appear to be deformed, the knees may be swollen, bow of legs can be seen, and the bones look very delicate. Its symptoms also include aches and pains. In some patients, the bone joints may appear to be unusually large. Children who have rickets appear to have stunted growth. Diagnosis can be done via bone scan and vitamin D tests. Rickets can also be diagnosed by doing a blood test which measures calcium and phosphate levels. Another method is by getting X-rays to assess the deformity of bones.
Prevention and Treatment
Malnutrition is one of the major reasons for rickets. The diet of children must be high in vitamin D and a lot of exposure to sunlight. If vitamin D is the reason, then obviously a diet rich in vitamin D would correct it. Dietary sources of vitamin D are quite a few. Amongst them, the richest source of vitamin D being fatty fish like salmon and sardines. One must also include a calcium-filled diet in order to strengthen the bones. Hence, the consumption of calcium and phosphorus is important. For a child, breast milk is the best source of calcium during the early years. It is suggested to breast feed the baby to meet the calcium requirements. Other than breast milk, other alternatives for calcium dosed foods are fortified breakfast cereals, fortified orange juices, green leafy vegetables, especially spinach and calcium supplements.
What is Osteomalacia?
Rickets in adults is known as osteomalacia. It develops softening of bones. Some of its reasons are similar to the ones in children, like inadequate exposure to sunlight, no intake of milk or other dairy products that include vitamin D, etc. Other reasons include kidney failure, phosphate depletion, kidney diseases, etc.
In adults, symptoms include deformation of bones mostly spine, pelvis, and legs. There is muscle weakness and also often patients are diagnosed with chronic diseases. The bones tend to become very soft and weak, which may lead in breaking of the bones. Quite often, it may also result in bone fractures. Since the symptoms and signs are fairly similar to the symptoms in children, the diagnosis is also more or less related. The diagnosis of osteomalacia is done via X-rays, bone biopsies, blood and urine tests. And also, it is treated well with intake of vitamin D and exposure to plenty of sunlight. It has been seen that osteomalacia patients respond well to treatment and the recovery is relatively quick post proper treatment.
If possible, this blemish disease can be treated and prevented during childhood, and its recurrence in adulthood can be avoided. And of course, it can be prevented and treated by taking the simplest measures of all. Rickets can be prevented with the intake of vitamin D and exposure to plenty of sunlight. However, for some form of deformities of the bones, surgery can be used for correction.