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What is osteomalacia?

Osteomalacia is a bone disorder in adults, similar to rickets in children. It is caused by a lack of adequate vitamin D. Without enough vitamin D in the body, bones cannot absorb the calcium and phosphate they need to keep them strong and healthy. Over time, osteomalacia causes bones to become soft, which can cause them to break easily or become deformed.

Osteomalacia is a metabolic bone disease characterized by abnormal mineralization of bone.
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine

Demineralization means that the bone has an abnormally low amount of mineral in it, especially calcium and phosphate.

The mineralization of bone is an important part of bone strength. Osteomalacia (softening of bone) is a disease in which demineralization leads to an increased risk of fracture. When this affects the bones of growing children, it's called Rickets.

Osteomalacia is different from osteoporosis. Both can increase the risk of fracture. But osteomalacia is a low mineral content in bone. With osteoporosis, the bone is more "porous" and has a reduced mass.

The most common causes of osteomalacia include:

Not enough vitamin D: Vitamin D can be low due to a diet that does not have enough vitamin D or by not getting enough sunlight (less than 10 or 15 minutes daily).

Liver or kidney disease: The body may not be able to regulate vitamin D the way it needs to when these organs are not working properly.

Celiac disease: This is an immune reaction to gluten (a protein in wheat and other grains). It damages the small intestine and can impair how vitamin D is absorbed.

Cancer: Certain tumors can disrupt normal mineral metabolism.

Surgery: The stomach and small intestine play a part in absorbing vitamin D. Surgery that removes or bypasses these parts can lead to low vitamin D levels.

Medications: Drugs taken for seizures, such as phenytoin and Phenobarbital.

Be sure to discuss any concerns you have about the health of your bones with your doctor.

Harvard Medical School Osteoporosis: A guide to prevention and treatment

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Harvard Medical School Osteoporosis: A guide to prevention and treatment

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.