Disease often leaves its mark deeply imprinted on the skeleton. Sometimes this can be very difficult to see and will require a highly trained or skilled eye. However, many times, bone remodeling can be clearly visible and provide a host of information that will give a history of the way a person lived and died. Forensic and biological anthropologist use these details to develop a biography of the person being examined.
Rickets is a disease that you may have heard about in your history class, but it’s not quite history. Rickets, a disease caused largely by a lack of vitamin D, primarily affects children. Vitamin D helps us to absorb calcium and build strong bones. The disease is not as common in industrialized nations, but does still occur in more often in developing nations.
The nature of this disease definitely leaves its mark on the bones. It can cause bowing of the legs, bone growth can be affected, and it can cause spine, pelvic and cranial deformities. One such deformity is known as a rachitic pelvis.
A rachitic pelvis is contracted and twisted as a result of softening of the bones early on in life due the rickets. This can cause lasting complications that affect a person’s gait or walk, standing, and other body movements.
This is a healthy pelvis:
These are examples of a rachitic pelvis:
For women, this caused and causes particular complications for child birth. I’m sure you can already imagine.
Once upon a time, women suffering from this condition would, most of the time, not be deliver healthy, live babies. The advent of medical technology and improved surgical practices, C-sections, made it possible for women with rachitic pelvises deliver babies.
Although this is a preventable disease, it still occurs in many places in the world for a number of different reasons ranging from lack of maternal health education to diet to environment.