Rickets | Causes & Risk Factors


What causes rickets?

A lack of vitamin D causes most cases of rickets, but this disorder can also run in families. Vitamin D helps the bones absorb calcium and phosphorus from food. When your child does not get enough vitamin D, his or her bones do not get the necessary nutrients that make bones strong.

Who is at risk?

Children ages 6 months to 24 months are at the highest risk of rickets because their bones are growing very rapidly during this period. Your child may also be at risk if he or she:

  • Has dark skin
  • Doesn't get moderate exposure to sunlight or wears sunscreen at all times when outside
  • Doesn't eat enough foods containing vitamin D, calcium or phosphorus
  • Breastfeeds without a vitamin D supplement


Rickets: Not a Disease of the Past by LS Nield, M.D., P Mahajan, M.D., M.P.H., A Joshi, M.D., and D Kamat, M.D., PH.D. (American Family Physician August 15, 2006, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20060815/619.html)

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 09/06