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Osteomalacia Information

Osteomalacia is softening of the bones, caused by not having enough vitamin D, or by problems with the metabolism (breakdown and use) of this vitamin. Osteomalacia denotes those disorders where mineralisation of newly formed bone matrix is defective. Osteomalacia in humans starts insidiously, as aches and pains in the lumbar (lower back or spine) region and thighs, spreading later to the arms and ribs. Pain is non-radiating, symmetrical, and accompanied by tenderness in the involved bones. In children, osteomalacia is called rickets. In Victorian times rickets was a common condition causing the bones of the skeleton to develop poorly. Other conditions that can cause osteomalacia include hereditary, kidney failure and acidosis, phosphate depletion associated with low dietary intake of phosphates, kidney disease or cancer (rare), and side effects of medications used to treat seizures. In osteoporosis, bone is broken down faster than it is re-formed. In osteomalacia, the two activities are balanced, but the bone that is formed does not become dense and hard (mineralized). Among older people, osteomalacia is much less common than osteoporosis. Osteomalacia may be part of the spectrum of osseous abnormalities that can be observed in patients with chronic renal insufficiency. This condition is referred to as renal osteodystrophy. The most common symptoms of osteomalacia are pain in the bones and hips, bone fractures, and muscle weakness.

Osteomalacia starts as aches and pains insidiously, in lumbar spine and thighs spreading later to arms and ribs. The word 'osteomalacia' means soft bones. Bone is a tissue which is active throughout life. Tiny areas of bone are continually being removed and replaced. This is known as 'bone turnover'. There are various tests that can be performed to determine if someone has osteomalacia. Low levels of vitamin D or calcium or a significant drop in phosphate levels may indicate the presence of osteomalacia. A vitamin D deficiency leading to osteomalacia may be caused by a poor diet (malnutrition) or by a problem with the intestine (such as sprue) that prevents it from absorbing nutrients. The radiographic appearance of osteomalacia may be normal or similar to findings noted with osteoporosis. The differential diagnosis of generalized osteopenia includes osteomalacia, hyperparathyroidism, and myeloma. The treatment of osteomalacia is by dietary change. People with vitamin D deficiency due to intestinal problems are best treated with calciferol. Most people with osteomalacia find their pain is reduced about two weeks after the injection. Extra calcium may also be needed while bone is healing.

Causes of Osteomalacia

The common causes and risk factor's of Osteomalacia include the following:

  • Problems with the metabolism (breakdown and use) of this vitamin.
  • Not enough vitamin D in the diet.
  • Kidney failure and acidosis.
  • Side effects of medications used to treat seizures.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Kidney disease or cancer (rare).
  • Inadequate exposure to sunlight (ultraviolet radiation), which produces vitamin D in the body.

Symptoms of Osteomalacia

Some sign and symptoms related to Osteomalacia are as follows:

  • Muscle weakness.
  • Diffuse (not pinpointed to one location) bone pain, especially in the hips.
  • Numbness of extremities.
  • Fatigue.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Abnormal heart rhythms.

Treatment of Osteomalacia

Here is list of the methods for treating Osteomalacia:

  • Oral supplements of vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus may be given depending on the underlying cause of the disorder.
  • People with vitamin D deficiency due to intestinal problems are best treated with calciferol.
  • Larger doses of vitamin D and calcium may be needed for people with intestinal malabsorption.
  • Monitoring of blood levels of phosphorus and calcium may be indicated for people with certain underlying conditions.
  • Surgery to correct bone deformities (in severe cases).


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