A private facility in Delhi has been reporting a rise in the number of cases of rickets since last year and children from affluent families too are getting afflicted by the disease, the hospital authorities said on Tuesday.
The Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC) in Delhi is receiving about 12 cases of rickets a month since last year, a rise of 300 per cent, and most of the patients are in the age group of 2-12 years, it said in a statement.
Rickets is a skeletal disorder in children caused by a lack of vitamin D, calcium or phosphorous, resulting in bone pain, weak and soft bones and various skeletal deformities.
"In the past one year, the hospital has received an average of 12 children a month complaining of bone and joint pains and leg deformities, and were diagnosed with rickets. Doctors emphasise that the vitamin D deficiency in these children is due to a prolonged indoor stay and a lack of sun exposure, leading to rickets in them, and rules out malnutrition as a reason," the statement said.
Before COVID-19 and lockdowns, children with rickets coming to the hospital were generally from a poor socio-economic background where malnutrition caused the disease but for the last one year, even well-nourished children from affluent families are also developing rickets, as seen at the hospital, ISIC doctors said.
"Even parents are unaware of the disease and bring their children to us when their daily activities are affected due to weakness and pain in the spine, pelvis or legs. Some children may develop deformity in their legs -- bowlegs or knock knees," the hospital said.
The sun is the best source of vitamin D -- there is a good reason why it is called the "sunshine vitamin" -- and has worked well for these children, said Dr Surbhit Rastogi.
"In a tropical country like India, rickets is not that common due to abundant sunlight. Before COVID-19 and lockdowns, we were receiving about four cases of rickets in a month, almost all of them were from the lower socio-economic background where a lack of nutrition caused the disease," the statement quoted him as saying.
However, in the last one year, outdoor activity for children has reduced drastically, which has affected their natural access to vitamin D, the doctors said.
Vitamin D is made in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Sun exposure is by far the best way to boost vitamin D levels, they added.
"We were under the impression that the incidence of rickets in India is more due to malnutrition, but the cases in the past year have shown the diverse impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our lives, and how it is indirectly affecting the physical and mental health of the children.
"It is for the sake of our children that all eligible people should get vaccinated and we must continue to follow the COVID-19 protocols till we get rid of this virus," Rastogi said.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)