Osteomalacia is a disease in which the bones become soft and weak. This can lead to fractures in adults and children and abnormal growth and develoment in children. When osteomalacia occurs in children, it is called rickets.
Calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D are necessary nutrients for the develoment and maintenance of strong, healthy bones. Osteomalacia occurs as the result of an inability of the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus from food and to get these minerals into the bones to make them strong.
Vitamin D is necessary for this process, and the osteomalacia can result from a variety of problems with vitamin D. These include a lack of vitamin D in the diet and insufficient exposure to sunlight. Exposure to sunlight produces vitamin D in the body, and sunlight is the body's primary source of vitamin D. There can also be a problem with malabsorption of vitamin D by the intestines.
Symptoms of osteomalacia include bone deformities, growth problems, and bone fractures in severe cases. Other more subtle symptoms can appear in less severe cases. For more details on symptoms, see symptoms of osteomalacia.
Osteomalacia is rare in the U.S., because people generally get sufficient exposure to sunlight for their bodies to manufacture vitamin D. In addition, dairy products that contain calcium, such as milk, are fortified with vitamin D. In far northern areas of the world, such as Alaska or in the Scandinavian countries, where the hours of sunlight can be very short, there is an increased risk of developing osteomalacia.
Other populations at risk for the disease include the elderly, people who live in long-term care, or people who are lactose intolerant or do not ingest enough dairy products. Always using very strong sunscreen and having dark skin also increases the risk. Dark skin and sunscreen block the absorption of the rays of the sun, which are needed for the body to produce vitamin D.
Some chronic diseases that interfere with vitamin D absorption or metabolism can cause osteomalacia. These include alcoholism, cancer, liver disease, celiac disease, and disorders of vitamin D metabolism.
Diagnosis of osteomalacia begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and a physical examination. Diagnostic tests include blood tests that measure levels of vitamin D, calcium, and phosphate in the blood. X-rays and bone density testing can check for fractures and bone loss. However, the most definitive test is a bone biopsy, which examines a sample of bone tissue under a microscope for bone softening.
Because the symptoms and presentation of osteomalacia are similar to some other conditions, a delayed or missed diagnosis of the condition is possible. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of osteomalacia.
Osteomalacia is a very preventable disease. It is also treatable and curable if diagnosed promptly. Treatment of the condition is tailored to the individual case, the severity of symptoms, and the presence of any underlying diseases or complications. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of osteomalacia. ...more »
Osteomalacia: A condition where the bones gradually soften and bend due to poor calcification stemming from a lack or impaired metabolism of vitamin D.
More detailed information about the symptoms,
causes, and treatments of Osteomalacia is available below.
The symptoms of osteomalacia vary depending on the stage of the disease and the individual. Symptoms in adults and children with the disease may include muscle weakness, bone pain, muscle cramps, muscle stiffness, numbness or tingling, weakness, and fatigue.
There may also be abnormal heart rhythms called cardiac arrhythmias. This can be serious, ...more symptoms »
The first step in treating osteomalacia is prevention. Osteomalacia is a very preventable disease. Prevention includes eating a diet that includes a sufficient amount of vitamin D. Vitamin D is found in fortified dairy products, such as milk, and in egg yolks and oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Cod liver oil is also an excellent ...more treatments »
It is possible for a diagnosis of osteomalacia to be delayed or missed. This is because some symptoms of osteomalacia, such as muscle weakness, fatigue, or bone pain can be vague, easily overlooked, or attributed to other conditions. One of these conditions is rheumatoid arthritis.
In addition, osteomalacia has some similar symptoms and may be confused with osteoporosis, ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Osteomalacia
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Definitions of Osteomalacia:
A metabolic bone disease that results from either a deficiency in vitamin D, or an abnormality in the metabolism of vitamin D, or a deficiency of calcium in the diet. The most common symptoms are bone pain and muscle weakness. When it occurs in children it is commonly referred to as rickets. (Diagnostic Surgical Pathology, 3rd ed.) --2003
- (Source - Diseases Database)
Abnormal softening of bones caused by deficiencies of phosphorus or calcium or vitamin D
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)
Osteomalacia is listed as a "rare disease" by the Office of
Rare Diseases (ORD) of the National Institutes of Health
(NIH). This means that Osteomalacia, or a subtype of Osteomalacia,
affects less than 200,000 people in the US population.
Source - National Institutes of Health (NIH)
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