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Disease: Osteomalacia Osteomalacia
Category: Bones, joints, muscles diseases

Disease Definition:

Vitamin D deficiency often results in softening of the bones, a condition called osteomalacia. In children, this condition is named rickets. The likelihood of soft bones to bow and fracture are more than those of harder, healthy bones. Osteoporosis is a bone disorder that contributes to bone fractures; osteomalacia is not the same as osteoporosis. A weakening of previously constructed bone is the cause of osteoporosis, while a defect in the bone-building process is the cause of osteomalacia.
The major signs and symptoms of osteomalacia include an achy bone pain and muscle weakness. Replenishing low levels of vitamin D and calcium are involved in the treatment for osteomalacia, in addition to treating any underlying disorders that might be causing the deficiencies.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


Osteomalacia might cause no symptoms in its early stages, even though signs of this condition might be apparent on X-ray pictures or other diagnostic tests. The affected person might experience bone pain and muscle weakness as the disease gets worse.

Bone pain:

The bones of the legs, lower spine and pelvis are the ones that are usually affected by the dull, aching pain that occurs with osteomalacia.

Muscle weakness:

Decreased muscle tone, weakness in the arms and legs, reduced ability to get around and a waddling gait may be caused by osteomalacia.


To build strong bones, the body uses calcium and phosphate. However, when a person doesn’t get enough of these minerals in their diet or if their body doesn’t absorb them properly, osteomalacia may occur.  These problems might be the result of:

Insufficient vitamin D intake: 

Worldwide, the most common cause of osteomalacia is a diet low in vitamin D.

Insufficient exposure to sunlight: 

The body needs vitamin D to process calcium and sunlight produces vitamin D in the skin. People who spend little time in sunlight, wear very strong sunscreen, stay covered while staying outdoors, or live in areas where sunlight hours are short or the air is smoggy may develop osteomalacia.

Celiac disease: 

The lining of the small intestine is damaged in this autoimmune disorder due to consuming foods that contain gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. A damaged intestinal lining doesn’t absorb nutrients, like vitamin D, as well as a healthy one does.

Certain surgeries: 

Osteomalacia could result from the removal of a part or all of the stomach (gastrectomy) because the stomach breaks down foods to release vitamin D and other minerals that are absorbed in the intestines. Additionally, osteomalacia may also result from surgery to remove or bypass the small intestine.


Osteomalacia could sometimes result from medications used to treat seizures, such as phenobarbital and phenytoin.

Kidney or liver disorders: 

Problems with the kidneys or liver could intervene with the ability to process vitamin D.


People who have both inadequate dietary intake of vitamin D and little exposure to sunlight, like older adults and those who are housebound or hospitalized have an increased risk of developing osteomalacia.



There is a high possibility of experiencing broken bones, specifically in ribs, legs and spine, when having osteomalacia.


In case a dietary or sunlight deficiency is the cause of osteomalacia, the condition can be cured by replenishing low levels of vitamin D in the body. Usually, for a period of many weeks to many months, people suffering from osteomalacia take oral supplements of vitamin D. However, vitamin D could also be taken as an injection or through a vein in the arm in less common cases.


The patient might need to take supplements of calcium or phosphorus in case his/her blood levels of those minerals are low. Additionally, the signs and symptoms of osteomalacia could be improved by treating any condition that affects the metabolism of vitamin D, such as kidney failure or primary biliary cirrhosis.


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