Vitamin D helps the body use calcium to build bone. The most common cause of osteomalacia is a low level of vitamin D. This may happen due to:
- Not getting enough vitamin D
- The body does not use or absorb vitamin D due to:
- Certain diseases
- Inherited conditions
The risk of osteomalacia is higher in older adults and those with darker skin. Other things that raise the risk are:
- Living in a nursing or assisted living home
- Not getting enough sunlight
- A diet low in vitamin D
- Conditions that can limit absorption of vitamin D, such as:
- Certain small intestine diseases or surgery
- Celiac disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Seizure medicines
- Paget disease of the bone
- Primary hyperparathyroidism
Osteomalacia often does not cause symptoms. In those that have them, symptoms may be:
- Bone pain
- Muscle pain or weakness
- Problems moving around
The condition can also cause deformed and broken bones.
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The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam may be done.
Tests may include:
- Blood and urine tests
- Bone mineral density test
- Bone scan
- Bone biopsy—when other test results are not clear
This may be enough to make the diagnosis. The doctor may want to do more tests to find the cause.
The goal of care is to treat the cause. Problems from osteomalacia also need to be treated.
Options to treat the cause may be:
- A diet rich in vitamin D
- Vitamin D supplements
- Calcium or phosphorus supplements
- Regular sun exposure—in moderate amounts
If medicines caused the condition, they may need to be stopped or changed. Other medicines may be given to treat underlying causes.
Problems due to osteomalacia may also need to be treated. Options may be:
- Braces to reduce or prevent bone deformities
- Surgery to fix bone deformities—in serious cases
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.
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