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Osteomalacia: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

Osteomalacia– This is a pathological condition of bones in which the bones become extremely soft and fragile and have a tendency to get fractured. This condition is generally developed due to vitamin D deficiency.

What Is Osteomalacia?

Osteomalacia is a condition in which the bones become extremely soft usually due to vitamin D deficiency.1 The soft bones present in the body tend to break faster than the harder bones. Osteomalacia should not be mistaken for another medical disorder of the bones called Osteoporosis. The main difference between Osteomalacia and Osteoporosis is that Osteomalacia is caused due to a defect in bone building while Osteoporosis is caused due to weakness of a fully formed bone. The primary symptom of Osteomalacia is muscle weakness and bone pain. The main way to treat Osteomalacia is by replenishing vitamin D in the body.

What Are The Causes Of Osteomalacia?

As stated, the main cause of Osteomalacia is Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is required by the body for processing of calcium which makes the bones strong.2 Vitamin D is usually provided to the body through sunlight hence this disease is caused in those people who do not spend enough time out in the sun such that sunlight is not able to get to the body. Also, people who consume very little vitamin D in their diet tend to develop Osteomalacia. Certain surgeries like gastrectomy can also cause Osteomalacia. Apart from this, certain medical conditions can also cause Osteomalacia, which are:

Causes Of Osteomalacia

What Are The Risk Factors For Osteomalacia?

People who do not have proper intake of vitamin D in their diet or do not get exposed to enough sunlight are at an increased risk for developing Osteomalacia, especially those who are old in age or are hospitalized as a result of which are not able to get enough sunlight.

What Are Some Of The Symptoms Of Osteomalacia?

There may be no symptoms observed in the initial stages of Osteomalacia, although Osteomalacia can be clearly identified on radiographs and other diagnostic studies. As this condition progresses and gets worse, the affected individual may start having pain in the bones and weakness in the muscles. The pain experienced will mostly be in the lower back, pelvis, hips, and legs. This pain may get worse in the evenings or with weightbearing activities. A waddling pattern of gait may also be observed due to weak muscles and bones.

How Is Osteomalacia Diagnosed?

The Following Tests May Be Done To Confirm The Diagnosis Of Osteomalacia:

  • Blood and urinalysis: These tests may reveal abnormal levels of vitamin D.
  • X-rays: This will show visible cracks in the bones on x-ray, which is a major feature of Osteomalacia.3
  • Bone biopsy: A bone biopsy will reveal to confirm the diagnosis, although the above two tests are enough to make a confirmatory diagnosis.

What Are Treatments For Osteomalacia?

  • As Osteomalacia develops usually due to vitamin D deficiency, hence supplementing vitamin D either through oral supplements or diet or enough exposure to sunlight is enough and potentially cures the condition.
  • In case if Osteomalacia is caused due to low levels of calcium or phosphorus then supplementing those minerals can cure the condition.

How Can Osteomalacia Be Prevented?

To Prevent Osteomalacia For Developing One Must Follow The Following:

  • Have a diet rich in vitamin D like oily fish, egg yolks cereals, bread, milk, and yogurt.
  • In case if an individual is not able to supplement enough vitamin D in the diet, then the individual needs to consult with a physician about vitamin D supplementation.
  • Get appropriate sunlight on a daily basis. It is good for health.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 22, 2019

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