Osteomalacia

Overview

Definition

Osteomalacia is a bone disease. It causes them to soften and weaken.

Causes

Vitamin D controls how the body uses calcium. It also controls how much calcium and phosphate is in bone. The intestines take vitamin D from foods we eat. The body makes vitamin D when you spend enough time in the sun.

The most common cause of osteomalacia is a shortage of vitamin D. This may happen when:

  • You don’t get enough vitamin D from foods or sunlight
  • Body doesn’t react to the action of vitamin D
  • The way the body uses vitamin D isn’t normal because:
    • The body can’t absorb fats
    • The body can’t absorb calcium
    • Of celiac disease
    • Of liver or kidney disease
    • Of medicines used to treat seizures
  • You have a genetic condition that causes it—rare

Risk Factors

Your chances osteomalacia are higher if you have any of the problems listed above.

Other factors:

  • Are aged 50-80 years old
  • Are of the Black race
  • Don’t get enough sunlight
  • Eat a poor diet

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

In most cases, symptoms aren’t present. In those that have them, it may cause:

  • Bone pain
  • Muscle pain or weakness
  • Deformed bones
  • Broken bones
  • Difficulty moving around
Curvature of the Spine
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Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history.

You may have:

  • A physical exam
  • Blood and urine tests
  • X-rays
  • Bone biopsy—when other test results aren't clear

Treatments

Treatment

The goal of care is to treat the cause. This may help with other health problems.

Treating the Cause

Care may involve:

  • Taking in more vitamin D by adding:
    • Dairy products that have vitamin D added
    • Foods high in vitamin D such as fatty fish, egg yolk, and green vegetables
    • Pills that have vitamin D, calcium, and other minerals
    • Biologically active vitamin D
  • Getting enough, but not too much, sunlight
  • Taking in more calcium or phosphorus if needed

Treating Health Problems

Care to take care of problems caused by osteomalacia:

  • Medicine for pain
  • Wearing braces to reduce or prevent bone deformities
  • Surgery to fix bone deformities—used in serious cases

Prevention

To help lower your chances of osteomalacia:

  • Drink milk that has added vitamin D.
  • Take in enough vitamin D, calcium, and other minerals. If you think your diet may be lacking, talk with your doctor about your options.
  • Get enough sunlight, but not too much. 15 minutes a day is generally enough. Longer times in the sun need protection such as clothing or sunscreens. This is especially true if you have fair skin. People with dark skin may need more sunlight or supplements.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

RESOURCES

Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics https://www.eatright.org 

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases https://www.niams.nih.gov 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Dietitians of Canada https://www.dietitians.ca 

Health Canada https://www.canada.ca 

References

Grant WB, Boucher BJ. Requirements for Vitamin D across the life span. Biol Res Nurs. 2011;13(2):120-133.

Hypophosphatemia—approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115235/Hypophosphatemia-approach-to-the-patient . Updated June 14, 2018. Accessed June 22, 2018.

Osteomalacia. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Health-Conditions/Osteomalacia.aspx. Accessed June 22, 2018.

Osteomalacia. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/13017-osteomalacia . Updated November 19, 2014. Accessed June 22, 2018.

Osteomalacia. GARD—Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center website. Available at: https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/7285/osteomalacia. Updated September 23, 2017. Accessed June 22, 2018.

Vitamin D deficiency in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113821/Vitamin-D-deficiency-in-adults . Updated October 9, 2017. Accessed June 22, 2018.

Vitamin D deficiency in children (infancy through adolescence). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T181112/Vitamin-D-deficiency-in-children-infancy-through-adolescence . Updated April 12, 2018. Accessed June 22, 2018.

What is osteomalacia? Arthritis Research UK website. Available at: https://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions/osteomalcia/what-is-osteomalacia.aspx. Accessed June 22, 2018.