BIOPHOTO ASSOCIATES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY BIOPHOTO ASSOCIATES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Rickets. Coloured X-ray of the weakened bones and bowed legs of a child suffering from rickets. The skeleton of the legs appears deformed, with the long bones of the limbs severely curved. Rickets is caused by a nutritional deficiency of vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary for the uptake of calcium from food; without this vitamin not enough calcium salts are deposited in the bones to make them rigid. Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin when it is exposed to ultraviolet light. The deficiency can therefore be caused by lack of sunlight as well as insufficient dietary intake. In adults this condition is known as osteomalacia, with a progressive softening of bone.
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