Definition of Osteomalacia

Osteomalacia is softening of the bones that most often occurs as a result of vitamin D deficiency or abnormalities in vitamin D metabolism that prevent mineral crystals from accumulating in the bone tissue. Vitamin D is essential to bone remodeling and the bone’s ability to draw calcium and other minerals from the blood circulation.

Osteomalacia develops when there is insufficient mineralization of the osteoid, a collagenbased substance the osteoblasts (bone-forming cells) produce. Instead of hardening into the bone matrix, the osteoid simply accumulates within the bone.

Other causes of osteomalacia include chronic liver disease, end-stage renal disease (ESRD), hypophosphatemia (insufficient phosphorus intake or metabolism), fluoride toxicity, and excessive antacid consumption.

Symptoms

Symptoms of osteomalacia include

  • Bone pain, especially in the hips
  • Numbness or tingling around the lips
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pathologic bone fracture (fractures that occur with minimal trauma or spontaneously)

Treatment Options

Bone biopsy provides the conclusive diagnosis. Treatment is usually intense vitamin D supplementation until bone mineralization returns to normal. Depending on the underlying cause of the osteomalacia, some people may also need to take phosphorus supplements.

Most people recover fully with appropriate treatment.

See also ANTACIDSCALCIUM AND BONE HEALTH; MINERALS AND HEALTHOSTEOPENIA; OSTEOPETROSISOSTEOPOROSIS; RICKETS; VITAMINS AND HEALTH.

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