What is English Disease?

The “English disease”, better known as rickets, is due to a disturbance in the calcium and phosphate metabolism caused by a  vitamin D  deficiency. Its name derives from its first discovery in Britain in the mid-16th century. However, the “English disease” was widespread throughout Europe in the age of the Industrial Revolution, and the victims were primarily children.

Vitamin D deficiency as a cause

Driven by hunger and unemployment into the rapidly growing industrial cities, the poor rural population hoped for an improvement in their miserable living conditions. Their children, who grew up in the chimney-polluted air of the cities and were later exploited almost around the clock as mine or factory workers, saw little or no daylight or sunlight.

As a result of this and also favored by the permanent malnutrition, her organism was not able to form the vital vitamin D, the precursor of which the body can synthesize itself and which is activated by UV radiation. Since calcium , which is important for growth in childhood   , can only be dissolved and transported to the bones with the help of this vitamin, the optical clinical picture was symptomatic: softening of the bones, including the skull bones, chicken breasts, bowlegs or knock-knees and generally severe growth disorders. This acute calcium deficiency often led to death.


Rickets prophylaxis is now a matter of course in medical care for babies. Since breast milk may not contain enough vitamin D3,  babies  often have to be given additional and medically controlled vitamin D doses, usually in the form of droplets, from the second week of life to the first year. Overdoses can be dangerous!


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