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Bone disease in children refers to conditions that affect bone strength, growth and overall health.
Bone disease in children can be caused by a number of conditions, including:
Vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D allows the body to absorb phosphorus and calcium from food. Phosphorus and calcium are the two minerals that work together to build healthy bones. A severe deficiency of vitamin D can lead to thin, brittle or misshapen bones.
Rickets is a condition in children where the bones are soft and weak. Most children develop rickets because of a long-term, severe case of vitamin D deficiency. A common symptom of rickets is bowed legs.
Parathyroid gland disorder.
The parathyroid glands produce parathyroid hormone which balances calcium and phosphorus levels in the body. Hyperparathyroidism occurs when the parathyroid glands produce too much parathyroid hormone. This is often caused by parathyroid glands that enlarge when benign tumors form in the glands. Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism may include kidney stones, joint aches, frequent urination and osteoporosis. Hypoparathyroidism occurs when the parathyroid glands produce too little parathyroid hormone. This can be caused by damage to the parathyroid glands during surgery, an autoimmune condition that causes the body to reject parathyroid tissue, missing or faulty parathyroid glands, radiation treatment or low magnesium levels. Symptoms of hypoparathyroidism may include muscle cramps and tingling fingers, toes or lips. Pseudohypoparathyroidism occurs when the body produces parathyroid hormone normally but fails to respond to it, causing low blood calcium and high blood phosphate. It is a rare genetic condition. Symptoms may include cataracts, dental problems, numbness, seizures and body spasms.
Calcium abnormalities include hypocalcemia and hypercalcemia. Hypocalcemia occurs when there is too little calcium in the blood. Hypocalcemia may be the result of vitamin D deficiency, hypoparathyroidism or chronic kidney disease. Common symptoms of hypocalcemia include muscle spasms, numbness, tingling and seizures. Hypercalcemia occurs when there is too much calcium in the blood. Hypercalcemia may be caused by hyperparathyroidism, cancer (such as lung or blood cancer), conditions that raise vitamin D levels (such as tuberculosis or sarcoidosis) or excessive use of vitamin D or calcium supplements. The condition may weaken bones and interfere with heart and brain function. Other symptoms of hypercalcemia include constipation, dehydration and kidney stones. In both conditions, symptoms may not be obvious.
Also called brittle bone disease, osteogenesis imperfecta is a genetic disorder that is present from birth. Brittle bone disease is characterized by bones that break easily.
Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become weak, brittle and prone to fracture. When it occurs in children, there is typically an underlying cause, such as osteogenesis imperfecta, Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, hyperthyroidism or calcium and vitamin D deficiency. Symptoms of osteoporosis in children may include joint pain, physical deformity like curving of the spine, a sunken chest or a limp.
Infantile osteopetrosis is a rare genetic condition that appears at birth. In this condition, the bones do not form normally causing them to be too thick yet weak and easy to break. This condition may lead to short stature, hearing and vision loss, frequent fractures and frequent infections. Children with this condition often have low levels of blood calcium and parathyroid hormone.
Doctors at Riley at IU Health diagnose bone disease with the following exams and tests:
Your child's treatment plan will depend on the underlying condition causing bone disease. Treatments for bone disease include:
The outlook for children with bone disease varies greatly. Conditions that cause bone disease range from mild to severe in their effect on the body. Once your child has been diagnosed, his or her doctor will share more details about treatment and prognosis based on your child's specific case.
Visit the links below to learn more about bone disease and discover support groups and resources.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
The American Academy of Pediatrics shares information about vitamin D deficiency on its website, Healthychildren.org.
Learn more about the causes, symptoms and treatment of rickets.
This U.S. National Library of Medicine website provides in-depth information about parathyroid disorders.
The Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation provides education, support and research information for patients and families living with osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease).
Learn more about juvenile osteoporosis and link to additional related resources on this National Institutes of Health website.
This government website explains how genetics play a role in osteopetrosis.