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Monday, 5 February, 2001, 12:14 GMT
Rickets upsurge among UK Asians
Dress code
Traditional Muslim dress reduces sunlight exposure
An increase in the number of cases of the bone disease rickets may be partly due to strict Muslim dress codes, say doctors.

The Asian community appears to be particularly vulnerable to the disease, which is caused by a lack of vitamin D.

This is produced naturally by the body when strong light hits the skin.

However, traditional Muslim female dress places emphasis on relatively little skin being exposed to sunlight.

This can lead to a vitamin D deficiency in mothers which is then passed on to their children during and after pregnancy.

The deficiency stops the bones developing properly, producing bow-legs and thickened wrists and ankles.

It was common at the turn of the century, but improved nutrition led virtually to its eradication from the UK.

If left untreated, the only remedy may be painful and scarring surgery.

Growth spurt

Girls approaching puberty who are adhering to traditional dress are also at risk, say experts, as more vitamin D is needed during this growth spurt.

In addition, modern GPs are so unused to seeing cases that the disease is often not recognised until the symptoms are far more advanced.

Gaznhar Din, whose son was eventually diagnosed, said: "I went to the local health centre - I told him that the child didn't walk - and that he had got no teeth.

"They told me he was probably a late developer."

Dr Zulf Mughal, from St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, described an case in which a young girl had to have operations to correct both the bones in both legs.

"She has been left with scars on both her legs, which is not pleasant," he said.

The level of sunlight experienced in the UK over between late autumn and early Spring is not enough in itself to protect darker-skinned children from rickets.

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21 Aug 00 | Health
Rickets makes a comeback
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