Osteomalacia

The softening and weakening of bones due to the defective mineralisation of bones caused due to a lack of primarily vitamin D and a few other minerals is called osteomalacia. It may also be due to the inefficient break down (or the metabolism) of Vitamin D by the body. When it occurs in children, it is called rickets. The adult and milder form of the disease is called osteomalacia. this condition weakens the bones and makes them soft and weak and more prone to fractures.

This disease is caused due to the deficient presence of vitamin D in the body. It is manifested through body pains, weakness of muscle and bone fragility.

Symptoms and signs of osteomalacia

Osteomalacia is characterised by the symptoms such as weak bones, bone pain (including spinal bone pain and pelvic bone pain), bone fractures, bending of bones etc. Depending on the stage of the disease, the symptoms may vary to include weight loss, lack of appetite, etc. It may sometimes be characterised by bones that fracture with little injury to the body. Also weakness in the muscles and overall bone pain, particularly in the hips can be treated as symptoms of osteomalacia. the deficiency of or lower than required levels of calcium in the body can cause symptoms such as cardiac arrhythmias which is abnormal heart rhythms, numbness in the arms, legs and around the mouth area, and spasms felt in the hands and feet which are all symptoms of osteomalacia.

Causes of disease

this condition is caused by the lack of or low levels of Vitamin D. Deficiency is caused either due to lack of Vitamin D in the diet or lack of proper exposure to the sunlight through which the body is able to produce it. This causes the body to lose calcium and phosphorous which are both needed to make the bones hard. It could also be caused due to the malabsorption of Vitamin D via the intestines.

Limiting the exposure of the body to sunlight, or living in places where there are shorter days which mean less sunlight, or places where there is smog all contribute to the deficiency of Vitamin D in people. The risk of osteomalacia increases in those who do not drink or avoid milk. Other reasons such as cancer, hereditary disorders of vitamin D absorption, liver disease, kidney failure or even sometimes medications used in the treatment of seizures have side effects which lead to osteomalacia.

Diagnosis of the disease

Osteomalacia can be diagnosed by conducting blood tests, x-rays or in certain cases where it is needed, a biopsy. A simple blood test which tests the levels of vitamin D, calcium and phosphorous is needed to help in diagnosis


Prevention of disease

Consuming a diet rich in vitamin D and calcium is one of the ways of preventing osteomalacia. Also exposing the body to enough sunlight so that it is able to produce sufficient quantities of vitamin D.

Treatment of disease

While it is always best to get the required dosages of vitamins and minerals through diet, depending upon the underlying cause of osteomalacia, oral supplements of Vitamin D as well as other bone nutrients such as phosphorous and calcium may be recommended. In cases of intestinal malabsorption, larger doses of the supplements may be advised. Apart from oral supplements, injected dosages may also be advised in cases where it is needed as they are known to last for a year before another injection may be needed. Another treatment may include but not be limited to direct exposure to sunlight of the skin may be recommended so that the body can produce Vitamin D. In places where direct exposure to sunlight is not possible, a full spectrum light which simulates sunlight can be used to prompt the body to begin the production of vitamin D. Also regular blood tests to monitor the levels of calcium and phosphorous in patients may be recommended.