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Osteomalacia

What is osteomalacia?

Osteomalacia means "soft bones." Osteomalacia is a disease that weakens bones and can cause them to break more easily. In osteomalacia, the bone tends to break down faster than it can re-form.

What causes osteomalacia?

Osteomalacia develops because of a lack of vitamin D (often from not getting enough sunlight) or because of a digestive or kidney disorder. These disorders can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb vitamins.

What are the symptoms of osteomalacia?

The most common symptoms of osteomalacia are pain in the bones and hips, bone fractures, and muscle weakness.

How is osteomalacia diagnosed?

There are various tests that can be performed to determine if someone has osteomalacia. The most important indicator is low levels of vitamin D, but low levels of calcium or a significant drop in phosphate levels may also indicate the presence of osteomalacia. X-rays may be taken to see if there is any evidence of osteomalacia development. Also, a bone mineral density scan may be performed to determine if there has been a reduction in bone density. Bone mineral density scans use a special kind of x-ray to measure the amount of calcium and other bone minerals within the body. The higher the mineral content, the stronger the bones; the lower the mineral content, the weaker the bones.

Rarely, the doctor may perform a bone biopsy, in which sample bone tissue is taken and examined.

How is osteomalacia treated?

Patients who have osteomalacia can take vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate supplements, depending on the individual case. For instance, people with intestinal malabsorption (the intestines cannot absorb nutrients or vitamins properly) may need to take larger quantities of vitamin D and calcium.

Other treatments to relieve or correct osteomalacia symptoms may include:

  • Wearing braces to reduce or prevent bone irregularities
  • Surgery to correct bone deformities (in severe cases)
  • Adequate exposure to sunlight

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 3/9/2010...#13017

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This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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