Rickets On The Rise in Ealing

Victorian Disease making a comeback in the borough

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Health professionals say they're concerned about the increasing number of children in Ealing suffering from rickets.

Rickets is a softening of the bones which can lead to fractures and deformity. It was prevalent in Victorian times and although largely eradicated in the West it is still one of the most frequent childhood diseases in many developing countries.

One of the major causes is a lack of vitamin D - usually produced in the skin when exposed to the sun.

A deficiency of this vitamin results in weaker bones and problems including tuberculosis, diabetes and heart disease.

Ealing Hospital is now dealing with more children under the age of three suffering from this disease.

Figures show that in the last eight years the number of infants admitted with seizures (because they and their mothers were lacking vitamin D) rose from six to 24.

Dr Colin Michie, Consultant at Ealing says the number of pregnant women taking vitamin D supplements has fallen by 25% which may partly explain the six fold increase in children with delayed walking and rickets - he treated 18 cases last year alone.

Dr Michie is frustrated the disease is returning. He says it's partly due to the success of the anti-sun lobby and partly cutural. By placing too much focus on the dangers of the sun we all end up getting too little exposure and not producing enough vitamin D.

He says:

''Many women and children of Somali origin are particularly affected because they traditionally cover up; but anyone who covers the skin is putting themselves and any children that they may have in the future at serious risk unless they compensate for the absence of sunlight.

'' Taking vitamin D supplements is a simple but crucial solution to the problem. Rickets is an entirely preventable disease and we need to get that message across throughout the community.''

He has enlisted the support of North Ealing MP Steve Pound who says:

'' I was amazed to learn of the extent of the problem and was even more horrified to see a young child with rickets whose health could have been immeasurably improved if his mother had taken vitamin D by mouth.

'' Children must not live a life of pain and ill health if we can do something simple to prevent it. Cod liver oil capsules and vitamin D supplements are available over the counter and the excellent community pharmacists that we have in Ealing will gladly advise any individual who asks for help.''








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