LONDON (AP) — Rickets, the childhood disease that once caused an epidemic of bowed legs and curved spines during the Victorian era, is making a shocking comeback in 21st-century Britain.
Rickets results from a severe deficiency of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. Rickets was historically considered to be a disease of poverty among children who toiled in factories during the Industrial Revolution, and some experts have hypothesized it afflicted literary characters like Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
Last month, Britain’s chief medical officer, Dr. Sally Davies, described the return of rickets as “appalling.” She proposed the country give free vitamins to all children under 5 and asked the country’s independent health watchdog to study if that would be worthwhile.
Most people get vitamin D from the sun, oily fish, eggs or dairy products. Rickets largely disappeared from Britain in the 1950s, when the country embarked on mass programs to give children cod liver oil. But in the last 15 years, the number of reported cases of rickets in hospitalized children has increased fourfold — from 183 cases in 1995 to 762 cases in 2011. Experts said the actual number is probably even higher since there’s no official surveillance system and it’s unknown whether the disease has peaked.
“It’s very surprising to see this,” said Dr. Mitch Blair, an officer for health promotion at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. “Children come in with bendy legs, swollen wrists and sometimes swollen ribs,” he said. “This is not something we should be seeing because it’s completely preventable.” He said the condition was reversible once children start getting enough vitamin D, usually in tablets or injections.
Blair cited a number of reasons for the jump in rickets, including changing cultural habits — like children spending more time playing indoors, the stringent use of sunscreen, and religious beliefs that mean skin is covered. Children with dark skin are particularly susceptible, since they need a higher dose of sunshine than pale-skinned children. Unlike in other countries like Canada, the U.S. and Australia, Britain does not fortify foods like milk or flour with vitamin D.
In the U.S., doctors said there has also been a rise in rickets, though there are no solid national figures to confirm it.
Dr. Craig Langman of Northwestern University said some small studies suggested vitamin D deficiency was rampant in U.S. populations but that it was more common for doctors to see children with subtler forms of nutrient deficiency as opposed to rickets.
“It’s a product of our changed society,” said Dr. Laura Tosi, an orthopedic surgeon at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “Kids with rickets are children who don’t have exposure to safe places to play and (who) stop drinking milk as soon as they’re weaned,” she said. Tosi said some well-intentioned public health campaigns — like the drive to remove flavored milk from schools — could hurt children’s bone health.
Tosi said the majority of children with rickets recover completely but the most severe cases could require surgery. “If the vitamin D deficiency is ongoing for a long time, these kids come in with horrific bowing of the legs and I have to think about breaking the bones to straighten them,” she said.
Tosi said the British suggestion to provide free vitamins for children might help combat the disease’s resurgence.
“There’s only a limited amount of time to build up children’s bones,” she said. “Given how cloudy it is (in the U.K.), I hope they’re supplementing their kids with vitamins.”
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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