Skip to content

    Children's Health

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Food for Thought: Rickets on the Rise?


    WebMD Health News

    March 29, 2001 -- When Bianca Arrington's breastfed 7-month-old son Japhet had a seizure one day, she never thought the diagnosis would ultimately be rickets, a disease essentially caused by a kind of malnutrition and thought to be a disease of the past in industrialized nations.

    "We were doing our regular routine when all of a sudden he fell back and started foaming at the mouth," recalls the young mother. "His eyes rolled to the side and his limbs tightened up, and he was shaking and gagging."

    At the hospital, the 7-month-old was examined, but he was released quickly. Bianca was told that many babies have one seizure and then never have another.

    But the next day, when she was following up with her pediatrician, Japhet had another seizure, and Bianca went back to the hospital. Although the CAT scan was normal, blood work revealed that Japhet's calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous levels were extremely low, and he was immediately transported to a larger hospital in Atlanta.

    That's where Bianca met Norman Carvalho, MD, a staff pediatrician at Children's Health Care of Atlanta. Carvalho set out to find out why Japhet's mineral levels were so low.

    "Dr. Carvalho said it was rickets," Bianca says. "I didn't know what rickets was; I had never heard of it."

    Rickets is a disease typically caused by vitamin D deficiency; the classic symptom is weakened or deformed bones. The disease was common a century ago during the Industrial Revolution when children went malnourished and without regular exposure to the sun, which triggers the body to make vitamin D. But now, thanks to a better understanding of nutrition, and fortification of certain foods, rickets is preventable and extremely rare in the U.S.

    So how could this have happened to Japhet?

    "Throughout my pregnancy I read everything, I went to breastfeeding classes, I spoke to a lactation consultant, and I never heard of rickets, never heard of giving a baby [a] vitamin supplement," his mom says.

    While numbers are hard to pin down because there is no national surveillance system or mandatory reporting for these diseases, some experts like Carvalho believe there may be an increase in the number of children with severe malnutrition. Carvalho himself reported two cases (including Japhet's) to the Georgia Department of Human Resources; in turn, the GDHR asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate cases of severe malnutrition in Georgia.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    child with red rash on cheeks
    What’s that rash?
    plate of fruit and veggies
    How healthy is your child’s diet?
     
    smiling baby
    Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
    Middle school band practice
    Understanding your child’s changing body.
     

    worried kid
    fitArticle
    jennifer aniston
    Slideshow
     
    Measles virus
    Article
    sick child
    Slideshow
     

    babyapp
    New
    Child with adhd
    Slideshow
     
    rl with friends
    fitSlideshow
    Child Coughing or Sneezing into Elbow
    Article