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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Osteomalacia

Last reviewed: August 3, 2014.

Osteomalacia is softening of the bones. It occurs because of a lack of vitamin D or a problem with the body's ability to break down and use this vitamin, which helps your body absorb calcium. Your body needs calcium to maintain the strength and hardness of your bones.

Causes

Bones that have softened due to osteomalacia have a normal amount of collagen, which gives structure to the bones. However, the bones lack the proper amount of calcium to keep them hard.

There are many causes of osteomalacia. In children, the condition is called rickets. It is most often caused by a low level of vitamin D.

Other conditions that may lead to osteomalacia include:

Factors that interfere with the body's ability to form vitamin D include:

  • Having very little exposure to sunlight
  • Shorter days of sunlight
  • Smog
  • Using very strong sunscreen

Elderly people and people who do not drink milk are at higher risk for osteomalacia.

Other conditions that may cause osteomalacia include:

Symptoms

Symptoms may also occur due to low calcium levels. These include:

Exams and Tests

Blood tests will be done to check vitamin D, creatinine, calcium, phosphate, electrolytes, alkaline phosphatase and parathyroid hormone levels.

Bone x-rays and a bone density test can help detect pseudofractures, bone loss, and bone softening.

In some cases, a bone biopsy will be done to see if bone softening is present.

Treatment

Treatment may involve vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus supplements taken by mouth. People who cannot absorb nutrients well through the intestines may need larger doses of vitamin D and calcium.

People with certain conditions may need regular blood tests to monitor blood levels of phosphorus and calcium.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Some people with vitamin deficiency disorders will get better within a few weeks. With treatment, healing should happen within 6 months.

Possible Complications

Symptoms can return.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of osteomalacia, or if you think that you may be at risk for this disorder.

Prevention

Eating a diet rich in vitamin D and getting plenty of sunlight and calcium can help prevent osteomalacia due to a vitamin D deficiency.

References

  1. Lorenzo JA, Canalis E, Raisz LG. Metabolic bone disease. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 29.
  2. Sysolmerski JJ, Insogna KL. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 253.

Review Date: 8/3/2014.

Reviewed by: Gordon A. Starkebaum, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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