Weakening of the bones is referred to as Osteomalacia. It is different from osteoporosis because here the bone is formed but remodelled. In osteomalacia there is a problem in bone formation or the building process of the bone.
Main cause of osteomalacia is due to the low absorption of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is the essential for building the bone structure. Vitamin D is produced when the ultraviolet rays of the sun are absorbed by the skin. Vitamin D is also present in many foods like eggs, fish and diary products and is absorbed by the intestines. Low absorption of Vitamin D in the body may be caused due to problems in the intestine due to infection or surgery or due to problems in diet.
Vitamin D absorption is hampered due to many conditions like celiac disease which damages the lining of the intestine, cancers which prevent absorption of Vitamin D from the intestine, kidney and liver disorders that affect the metabolism of vitamin D, phosphate deficient diet, and drugs that is used to treat seizures.
Osteomalacia can cause bone fractures, muscle weakness, and bone pain in various parts of the body. In severe cases osteomalacia can cause irregular heartbeats, spasms in hands and feet, numbness in legs, hands, and mouth.
Doctors will diagnose osteomalacia by conducting tests for low doses of vitamin D, phosphorus and calcium. High levels of parathyroid hormone also indicates osteomalacia which can be due to vitamin D insufficiency. X-rays and imaging tests can indicate the possibility of fractures. These fractures are in the form of small cracks which are found throughout the body. The cracks is called looser’s transformation zone. Fractures tend to happen in people with osteomalacia even with small injuries.
Bone biopsy is conducted to understand osteomalacia the bone strength of the patients. Generally x-rays and blood tests are sufficient to under osteomalacia.
Treatment for osteomalacia is by taking vitamin D supplements. In cases where the person is suffering from low absorption in the intestines then the person is asked to take a diet low in key nutrients. Patients with cirrhosis and kidney failure are treated for the underlying condition. Exposure to sunlight is essential to increase the levels of vitamin D. In rare cases the patients are given vitamin D intravenously.
Among children, osteomalacia tends to cause bone deformity. In severe cases the children have to wear braces or undergo surgery to correct bone deformity.