Symptoms - Rickets and osteomalacia

Rickets causes a child's bones to become soft and weak, which can lead to bone deformities.

The signs and symptoms of rickets can include:

  • pain – the bones affected by rickets can be sore and painful, so the child may be reluctant to walk or may tire easily; the child's walk may look different (waddling)
  • skeletal deformities – thickening of the ankles, wrists and knees, bowed legs, soft skull bones and, rarely, bending of the spine
  • dental problems – including weak tooth enamel, delay in teeth coming through and increased risk of cavities
  • poor growth and development – if the skeleton doesn't grow and develop properly, the child will be shorter than average
  • fragile bones – in severe cases, the bones become weaker and more prone to fractures

Some children with rickets may also have low levels of calcium in their blood (hypocalcaemia). This can make the symptoms of rickets worse and can also cause muscle cramps, twitching, tingling in the hands and feet, and fits.

Adults can experience similar symptoms such as bone pain, muscle weakness and fragile bones that are more prone to fractures. In adults, these symptoms are known as osteomalacia.

Visit Arthritis Research UK to find out more about symptoms of osteomalacia.

When to seek medical advice

If your child has any signs or symptoms of rickets, such as bone pain, delayed growth, muscle weakness or skeletal problems, take them to your GP for a check-up.

If you are an adult and you're experiencing bone pain or muscle weakness see your GP to get it checked out.

Page last reviewed: 25/05/2018
Next review due: 25/05/2021