Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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State of malnutrition caused by a reversible deficiency (avitaminosis) of vitamin D. Often observed in children between the ages of 1 and

2. The symptoms include restlessness, profuse night sweats, lack of muscle tone, retardation of motor development, and most prominently retardation of bone growth, resulting in grotesquely bowed legs (enlargement of the epiphyses), and malformations of the skull and knobs on the ribs (rickettsial rosary). The deficiency in adults is called osteomalacia, and results in softened bones; it is common among Muslim women. The primary cause is a deficiency of vitamin D; conversion of ergosterol, 7-dehydrocholesterol, and other sterols leads to the synthesis of vitamin D in animal skin upon exposure to ultraviolet light. Considerable vitamin D is required during the adolescent growth spurt; it has been a standard supplement in milk since the 1940s. Rickets was first described in 1650.

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From "Dictionary of Nursing and Individual Health Care"