Osteomalacia - Symptoms, diagnosis and treatments

January 2017

Osteomalacia constitutes defective mineralization of all the bones that make up the skeleton, when there are inadequate amounts of minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus, on the bones, causing them to soften significantly. Osteomalacia primarily affects adults, and is generally due to a severe vitamin D deficiency, the substance involved in enabling minerals to fix on bones, or inadequate exposure to the sun, which is required as part of the synthesizing process of vitamin D. Other causes can be problems with calcium or phosphorus absorption, or severe loss of these minerals. Principal symptoms can include bone pain and easily-provoked fractures from impacts due to bone fragility. Treatment consists essentially of administering appropriate amounts of vitamin D. Osteomalacia is called rickets when observed in children.


Definition

Osteomalacia is a decalcification of the bones. The main cause of this disease is a vitamin D deficiency, due to poor diet or a lack of intestinal absorption of this vitamin. This phenomenon is explained by severe and frequent diarrhea or by taking certain treatments. In children, osteomalacia is manifested in the form of rickets. There are several types of osteomalacia: axial osteomalacia, which affects the spine, vitamin-resistant osteomalacia, a genetic defect that blocks the synthesis of vitamin D, and hypophosphatemic osteomalacia, due to renal dysfunction.

Symptoms

==Symptoms== of osteomalacia include:
  • significant bone pain;
  • severe muscle fatigue, resulting in gait;
  • back and chest pain;
  • compaction of the spine in the most severe cases.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of osteomalacia is made through blood tests revealing low levels of vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus. An X-ray examination will also highlight the disease. Indeed, the image is blurred and bones are cracked and deformed. These cracks are concentrated in the chest, ribs and tibia. A bone biopsy is performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment of osteomalacia is by the administration of vitamin D. This contribution is made by food or medication depending on the severity of the disease. Among foods that are rich in vitamin D, there are egg yolks, herring, shrimp and salmon. Regular exposure to sunlight is also recommended to increase vitamin D absorption by the bones.

Prevention

To prevent osteomalacia, one should opt for a diet rich in vitamin D and ensure a minimum of sun exposure.

Photo credits : lightwise - 123RF

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Original article published by . Translated by Jeff. Latest update on November 10, 2016 at 04:50 AM by Jeff.
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