Osteomalacia, also known as rickets, is among the most frequent childhood diseases in developing countries.
The predominant cause is a vitamin D deficiency, but lack of adequate calcium in the diet may also lead to rickets.
Although it can occur in adults, the majority of cases occur in children suffering from severe malnutrition, usually resulting from famine or starvation during the early stages of childhood.
Vitamin D is required for proper calcium absorption from the gut.
In the absence of vitamin D, dietary calcium is not properly absorbed, resulting in hypocalcemia, leading to skeletal and dental deformities and neuromuscular symptoms, e.g. hyperexcitability.