What is Osteomalacia?
In medical terms the word down osteo means bone and malacia means soft so when you combine the two words it means a disease in which your bones become soft. If this disease happens in children it is referred to as rickets. When it is the adult form it is referred to as Osteomalacia. With bones that are soft they are most likely to either fracture or bow unlike bones that are healthy and hard.
When a person has Osteomalacia their symptoms can occur periodically or be constant. Because it can vary from person to person, the symptoms can also vary. Some patients may have mild symptoms while others may have bone fractures that happen frequently. The most common symptoms are bone fractures without a real injury.
Other symptoms may include:
- Muscle weakness, especially in your legs and arms. There would be less tone in your muscles and you would have discomfort when you move. You may even have difficulty moving or have a waddling gait. The reason that you may have muscle weakness is because of problems at the spot where your muscles attach to your bones.
- Bone pain that is widespread, especially in your hips and radiates to your lower spine, feet, legs, and pelvis. It is not acute pain but it is consistent, especially if the pain is aggravated when you do physical activity. You can observe this in any part of your body where you can feel the one and if you press on it you would feel a terrible pain.
- Physical deformities such as lordosis, which is the inward curvature of a portion of your cervical vertebral and lumbar column or triradiate pelvis. There may also be fractures because the bones cannot bear your body weight.
If the condition is caused by low calcium levels you may have symptoms that include:
- Numbness of your legs and arms
- Numbness around your mouth
- Spasms of your feet and hands
- Irregular heart rhythms
The most common cause is a lack of vitamin D, which is a nutrient that is important for your body absorb the calcium in your stomach. This vitamin will also help you maintain phosphate and calcium levels in order to ensure proper formation of your bones. You can get vitamin D in supplements or within your skin from being exposed to the UV rays found in sunlight. You can also get it from different foods such as fish and dairy product.
When you have a low level of vitamin D you are not able to process the necessary calcium to ensure proper bone formation and structural strength. This can happen if you do not have enough foods in your diet that give you the necessary vitamin, having a problem with your intestines, or not enough exposure to the sun. There are also certain medications that can cause Osteomalacia such as ones that are used to treat seizures like Phenobarbital and phenytoin.
Other causes may include:
- Pancreatic disorders because the pancreas is the organ which secretes the digestive enzymes that help break down particles of foods and interferes with your body absorbing minerals that can help make your bones strong.
- Gastrectomy surgeries because the food you eat is broken down in your stomach and the vitamin D in your body is absorbed by your body so any attempt to change, bypass, remove, or alter parts of your stomach could cause Osteomalacia. It could also be caused by surgery to bypass or remove all or part of your small intestine,
- Celiac disease which is an autoimmune disorder and the lining of your small intestine is damaged by eating certain foods that have gluten in it. If the lining of your intestinal tract is damaged it cannot absorb the essential nutrients, such as vitamin D, your body needs.
- Liver or kidney disorders can also interfere with your body’s ability to process and absorb vitamin D.
If Osteomalacia is caused by sunlight or dietary deficiency it can usually be cured by replenishing your low levels of vitamin D. You can do this by making sure that your diet includes foods and drinks that are rich in vitamin D and get plenty of sunshine. You can also take a vitamin D supplement for a certain time period of weeks to months. A less common way to get vitamin D is through a vein in your arm or as an injection.
Your physician may also have you take supplements if your phosphorus or calcium levels are low. It you have any conditions that affect vitamin D metabolism like primary biliary cirrhosis, or kidney failure, you can improve the symptoms if you treat the condition that is causing this problem.
Once the physician begins your treatment you will need to have regular blood work done so the physician can check the level to see if the treatment is working. If not then the physician may try another type of treatment or raise the amount of supplements you are taking.
Pictures of Osteomalacia…