"Osteo" means "bone" and "malacia" means "soft", hence, simply put, osteomalacia is the softening of the bone.
Osteomalacia is said to occur when the bones become soft and weak, due to the inability of the bone to mineralize making it easily broken. This condition may be due to a severe lack of vitamin D, which affects the bone maturing process. In the body, vitamin D controls the amount of calcium and phosphorus absorbed by the body. These elements help in protecting the inner matrix of the bone. The softening of bones that occurs when the bones do not have enough minerals for formation. It is different from osteoporosis and when the condition happens in children, it is called "rickets". Symptoms can become severe if not treated early.
Osteomalacia can occur in children and it is called "Rickets". It tends to happen during pregnancy and more common in women than men.
Osteomalacia vs Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is not the same as osteomalacia as osteoporosis is the weakening of the bone that is already formed and remodeled, whereas osteomalacia is the softening of bones that occurs during the formation of the bones.
The symptoms of osteomalacia include:
- The weakness of the muscles
- Bones break easily
- Pains at the lower back, pelvis, legs, and ribs.
- Irregular heartbeat
- Numbness around mouth, arms, and legs
- Easily tired
- Stiffness at joints
- Problems standing, sitting, or walking up the stairs.
Osteomalacia can be caused by the following factors such as:
- Insufficient vitamin D in the body due to limited exposure to sunlight and eating meals low in vitamin D, hence calcium absorption is affected.
- Surgeries are done to remove part or to bypass the small intestine, which could interfere with the absorption of vitamin D or calcium.
- When there is damage to the lining of the small intestine, as in celiac disease, affecting the absorption of vitamin D.
- Problems associated with the kidney or liver.
- Intestinal issues.
- Some cancer can affect your body's processing of Vitamin D.
- Some medications for seizures.
- Although rare, it could be genetic.
- Malnutrition during pregnancy and in breastfeeding mothers.
More about Treatment
The risk factor of osteomalacia includes:
- Little or no exposure to sunlight due too illness
- A meal low in vitamin D
- People who cover their skin a lot may be due to religious reasons
- People with kidney failure, liver conditions
- Dark skin individuals.
COMPLICATIONS OF OSTEOMALACIA
When osteomalacia is left untreated for a while, it has the potential of resulting in serious conditions such as:
- Broken bones and severe bone deformity
- Waddling, side to side stride
- Bowing growth especially in children
DIAGNOSIS OF OSTEOMALACIA
The symptoms of osteomalacia are not usually visible until after a while. A person with osteomalacia can have this condition for up to 2 years before realizing it. Early diagnosis of this condition could lead to rapid recovery.
You will be:
- Physically examined and medical history checked
- A blood test to ascertain the level of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D.
- Undergo scans such as bone mineral density scans and X-rays to show the cracks in the bone.
- You may be also tested for alkaline phosphatase isoenzymes.
- A bone biopsy may be carried out.
Osteomalacia can be cured with proper medication. Such medications include:
- Taking supplements for vitamin D, if it is caused by vitamin D, regularly.
- You will be given pain medications to help ease the pains in the bone and muscle cramps.
- You will be advised to expose yourself to sufficient sunlight.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation.
- Exercising regularly and eating healthy diets.
- You will treat for any underlying conditions that lead to vitamin D insufficiency.
A lot of persons recover from osteomalacia though It may take up to 6months for complete healing to occur. Improvements may be seen in a few weeks with the increase in taking of mineral supplements such as vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus.
- What food should I eat that contains vitamin D?
There is food that is naturally rich in vitamin D and they include oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, egg yolk, red meat, etc. Some food fortified with vitamin D can be eaten also and they include cereal, milk, yogurt.
Although, sunlight remains the best source of vitamin D.
- How is osteomalacia likely to affect me?
Osteomalacia could lead to bone fracture and pains in the muscles and sometimes, fatigue and irregular heartbeat, accompanied by numbness around the mouth, arms, and legs.
When diagnosed early, recovery could be easy but late diagnoses might delay recovery especially when bones are fractured.
- What can I do to have healthy bones?
There are things one can do to develop healthy bones. Certain adjustments in our lifestyle and meals could help drastically. They include:
- Getting regular healthy sunlight.
- Drinking alcohol in moderation.
- Exercising regularly.
- Avoid smoking.
- Having a meal rich in minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D.
- Who gets osteomalacia?
Osteomalacia can affect anyone or age group as long as vitamin D supply is deficient, maybe due to lack of sufficient sunlight on their skin or lack of necessary minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, and vitamin D, in diets.
People commonly affected are pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers and sometimes, children who have high needs for vitamin D.
- What is the difference between osteoporosis and osteomalacia?
Osteomalacia is different from osteoporosis as osteomalacia occurs during bone formation while osteoporosis is the weakening of the already formed bone.
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