What is osteomalacia?

Osteomalacia is a disease that causes an adult’s bones to soften, resulting in muscle weakness and bone pain. The most common cause of osteomalacia is a lack of vitamin D.

Bone Problems Spotlight

In children osteomalacia is known as rickets. People at risk for developing soft bones typically possess one or more risk factors associated with low vitamin D levels. These risk factors may come from environmental, genetic and dietary sources.

Osteomalacia is caused by a dysfunction in the bone-building process. Because vitamin D is needed to build strong bones, any disorder that affects vitamin D levels in your body will affect your bones. Sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, so if you live in an area where the weather is often cloudy, the environment may be contributing to your lack of vitamin D. Genetic disorders affecting vitamin D metabolism also commonly cause osteomalacia. Not consuming enough milk and dairy products, which are high in vitamin D and calcium, is also associated with developing osteomalacia. Other less common causes of osteomalacia are liver and kidney diseases and cancer.

The signs and symptoms of osteomalacia can be constant or occur periodically. Osteomalacia varies from person to person. Some people with osteomalacia have mild symptoms, such as muscular discomfort, while others may have frequent bone fractures. Fortunately, osteomalacia can be treated with nutritional supplementation to resolve vitamin D and calcium deficiencies. Lifestyle changes can reduce the risk for osteomalacia and include receiving adequate sun exposure, eating a well-balanced diet that includes milk and dairy products, not smoking, and always taking all medications or supplements as prescribed.

In some cases, osteomalacia can lead to serious bone fractures and should be treated. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if your osteomalacia includes serious signs and symptoms, such as deformity or dislocation of a joint, extensive swelling, numbness, bone protruding through the skin, or inability to feel the bone.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for osteomalacia but mild symptoms, such as numbness, swelling, or trouble moving your joints, recur or are persistent.


What are the symptoms of osteomalacia?

Osteomalacia causes softened bones and may result in a number of symptoms. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.

Common symptoms of osteomalacia

You may experience osteomalacia symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times any of these common symptoms can be severe:


What causes osteomalacia?

Osteomalacia is caused by a dysfunction in the bone-building process. Because vitamin D is needed to build strong bones, any disorder that affects vitamin D levels in your body will affect bone strength and development. The environment can play a role in vitamin D deficiency, since sunlight is responsible for the production of vitamin D in the body. Not consuming enough milk and dairy products,... Read more about osteomalaciacauses


How is osteomalacia treated?

Treatment for osteomalacia begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine whether you have osteomalacia, your health care provider will ask you questions, request a blood sample, and possibly order other diagnostic testing. It is important to follow your treatment plan for osteomalacia precisely and to take all your medications as instructed.

The tre... Read more about osteomalaciatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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