1 What is Osteomalacia?

Osteomalacia is a condition that involves softening of the bones, which is often a result of a deficiency in vitamin D. When the bones are bones, they are more prone to fracture compared to healthy bones. The condition should not be mistaken with Osteoporosis, another kind of bone disorder.

Osteomalacia takes place due to an abnormality in the process of building bones.

The symptoms of the condition may include weakened muscles and bone pain.

Treatment basically relies on the replenishment of Vitamin D, but if the condition has an underlying cause, it will be addressed first.

2 Symptoms

Even if Osteomalacia is a problem that occurs upon the bone-building process, it may display no symptom in its early stages. However, the signs would be apparent in diagnostic tests and scans like X-rays.

Once the condition becomes worse, pain in the bone and muscle weakness are felt. Dull, aching pain that usually affects the pelvis, hips, lower back, ribs, and legs get more pronounced. You may notice that your gait becomes unstable, more like you’re wobbling. This is due to the weakness of the legs and decreased muscle tone.

3 Causes

Osteomalacia may be caused when there’s a lack of calcium and phosphate in your diet or your body doesn’t absorb them properly.

The common factors that may cause this are:

  • Vitamin D deficiency. The body requires a healthy dose of vitamin D in order to process calcium. Vitamin D, on the other hand, is primarily produced by getting enough sunlight or eating vitamin D-rich food. 
  • Certain surgeries. The stomach normally breaks down the food you ingest to release minerals and vitamins, which are then absorbed in the intestine. The process, however, is messed up if you’ve had a gastrectomy or removed a part of your stomach (or all of it). Removal or bypass of the small intestine may also result in osteomalacia. 
  • Celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged, as a result of eating gluten-containing foods like barley, wheat, and rye. Once the intestinal lining gets damaged, it will not be as good in absorbing nutrients, such as vitamin D.
  • Kidney or liver disorders. Health conditions that impair the kidneys or liver can hinder your body’s ability to process and absorb vitamin D.
  • Drugs. Taking certain medications, particularly drugs used in seizure treatment like phenytoin and phenobarbital can result in osteomalacia.

4 Treatment

Osteomalacia that is caused by sunlight or dietary deficiency, the condition is typically treated by vitamin replenishment.

Vitamin D taken orally for some period can make the condition improve. If the tests show low levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood, mineral supplements can help.

5 Prevention

Deficiency osteomalacia can be prevented. Here are some things you can do to prevent the condition from developing:

  • Eat vitamin D-rich foods. Oily fish, such as sardines, mackerel, and salmon are rich in vitamin D. Egg yolks, and foods fortified with the vitamin like cereals, milk, and bread are also good choices. 
  • Take supplements, if necessary. If you are not getting enough micronutrients from your diet, or if you have a condition that affects your ability to digest and metabolize the nutrients, then taking supplements may be needed. Ask your doctor about it.
  • While lack of exposure to sunlight is linked to vitamin D deficiency-caused osteomalacia, getting “enough” sunlight is not currently recommended. That is because it is still not known what the safe amount of sunlight is and of course, because sun exposure can heighten your risk of getting skin cancer.

6 Risks and Complications

People who have not enough vitamin D in their diet, have little sun exposure, and those who are hospitalized or housebound have a higher risk of developing osteomalacia.

Complication, on the other hand, is more likely to be broken bones.

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