Caused by a severe vitamin D deficiency, osteomalacia softens bones, sometimes causing leg bowing in children. Boosting vitamin D intake can cure the disorder.
Osteomalacia refers to a marked softening of your bones, most often caused by severe vitamin D deficiency. The softened bones of children and young adults with osteomalacia can lead to bowing during growth, especially in weight-bearing bones of the legs. Osteomalacia in older adults can lead to fractures.
Treatment for osteomalacia involves providing enough vitamin D and calcium, both required to harden and strengthen bones, and treating disorders that might cause the condition.
When osteomalacia is in its early stages, you might not have symptoms, although signs of osteomalacia might show on an X-ray or other diagnostic tests. As osteomalacia progresses, you might develop bone pain and muscle weakness.
The dull, aching pain associated with osteomalacia most commonly affects the lower back, pelvis, hips, legs and ribs. The pain might be worse at night or when you put pressure on the bones. The pain is rarely relieved completely by rest.
Decreased muscle tone and leg weakness can cause a waddling gait and make walking slower and more difficult.
Osteomalacia results from a defect in the bone-maturing process. Your body uses the minerals calcium and phosphate to help build strong bones. You might develop osteomalacia if you don't get enough of these minerals in your diet or if your body doesn't absorb them properly. These problems can be caused by:
Vitamin D deficiency. Sunlight produces vitamin D in your skin. Dietary vitamin D is usually from foods to which the vitamin has been added, such as cow's milk.
People who live in areas where sunlight is limited, get little exposure to sunlight or eat a diet low in vitamin D can develop osteomalacia. Vitamin D deficiency is the most common cause of osteomalacia worldwide.
The risk of developing osteomalacia is highest in people who don't get enough dietary vitamin D and have little sun exposure, such as older adults and those who are housebound or hospitalized.
If you have osteomalacia, you're more likely to break bones, particularly those in your ribs, spine and legs.
Osteomalacia caused by inadequate sun exposure or a diet low in vitamin D often can be prevented by getting enough vitamin D.
Unprotected sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer. There's no consensus among experts about what amount of sun exposure is safe and enough to prevent or treat osteomalacia.
Osteomalacia can be difficult to diagnose. To pinpoint the cause and to rule out other bone disorders, such as osteoporosis, you might undergo one or more of the following tests:
Fortunately, getting enough vitamin D through oral supplements for several weeks to months can cure osteomalacia. To maintain normal blood levels of vitamin D, you'll likely have to continue taking the supplements.
Your health care provider might also recommend that you increase your calcium or phosphorus intake, either through supplements or diet. Treating conditions that affect vitamin D metabolism, such as kidney and liver disease or low phosphate levels, often helps improve the signs and symptoms of osteomalacia.
You'll likely start by seeing your primary care provider, who might refer you to a doctor who specializes in diseases of the joints and muscles (rheumatologist) or one who specializes in metabolic bone disorders (endocrinologist).
Make a list of:
For osteomalacia, basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, including:
December 24th, 2020