Osteomalacia is a medical condition that results in the weakening of bones. This article provides some information about this bone disorder, its symptoms, and treatment.
Osteomalacia refers to a disease wherein the bones become soft due to the lack of Vitamin D in one’s body. The terms ‘Osteo’ means ‘bone’ and ‘malacia’ means ‘softness’. In the case of children, it is commonly referred to as rickets and the term osteomalacia is used only in the case of the adult form of the disease. The most common cause for this medical condition is the deficiency of Vitamin D which occurs when there is an insufficient exposure to sunlight, since sunlight stimulates the production of this Vitamin D in the body.
It is a disability that is normally found in adults who do not get a proper diet or whose movements are restricted. A person affected by this condition often experiences pain and weakness in the body. Though osteomalacia is a bone disorder, it is different from osteoporosis that is also related to weak bones and leads to bone fractures. The former is a disorder of the bone-building process and the latter is the weakening of the bone with age.
This medical condition is asymptomatic in the early stages. Hence, the symptoms are only observed in the later stages, however, X-ray pictures of the bones taken in the earlier stages would clearly show the disintegration of the bones. Even the diagnosis tests would show the symptoms of the disease. Further, the symptoms of this disease in the later stages would include the following:
- Ache in the bones – The affected people would experience pain in the bones and usually in the lower spine, pelvis, legs, and feet. The pain is not acute though it is consistent and the pain is aggravated when the body does any physical activity. Also, if any part of the body where the bone can be felt is pressed, it would result in a terrible ache. The pain in the bones does not radiate and the bones become soft.
- Weakness in the Muscles – Due to this medical condition, there could be a weakness in the muscles that could further result in weakness of the arms and legs. There would be a decreased muscle tone and the affected person would face discomfort while moving. Therefore, it has been observed that the affected people move with difficulty.
- Physical Deformities -There are physical deformities like the triradiate pelvis and lordosis, since the bones become tender. There is a tendency of fractures as well, since the bones would not be able to bear the weight of the body.
This medical condition is generally caused due to the lowering down of osteoid, which is a kind of bone protein matrix and is made of type 1 collagen. When there is a deficiency of minerals in the body, the osteoid does not mineralize and as a result it accumulates in the body. Though there are no growth plates in adults, but the adult bones constantly remodel themselves. Further, to aid in this process the bones constantly make and break themselves. They are broken with the help of special cells called osteoclasts and made again with the help of osteoblasts. When the bones are made, the collagen fibers attach themselves to each other and the minerals like calcium also integrate into the network of fibers and this process is called ‘mineralization’.
The strength of the bones is determined by the presence of minerals in the bone. Vitamin D helps in the absorption of the minerals from the digestive tract for better bone formation or building of the bone. Thus, the deficiency in the vitamins and minerals that are required for the process would lead to this medical condition.
- Deficiency of Vitamin D – As mentioned above, this medical condition occurs when there is a deficiency of Vitamin D that normally occurs when the body is not exposed to sunlight or when the diet does not consist of sources that can supply it to the body. Also, the application of a strong sunscreen and keeping one’s body covered most of the time protects the body from sunlight. However, it could lead to the deficiency as sunlight is a potential source of the Vitamin D.
- Gastrectomy Surgeries – Since the food is broken down in the stomach and the Vitamin D is then absorbed by the body, therefore an attempt to alter, change, bypass, or remove parts due to some other disorder could lead to this medical condition.
- Pancreatic Disorders-There can be various pancreatic disorders which can cause this condition since pancreas is the organ that secretes digestive enzymes which help in the breaking down of the food particles. Hence, any disorder that interferes with the process of absorption of minerals can lead to this bone disorder.
The obvious cure of this condition is to supply the body with vitamin D supplements. If it is an extreme case and the supplements are no longer helpful, this vitamin would be injected in the veins of the affected person. At times, this bone disorder is caused due to the deficiency of Phosphorous or Calcium; even those supplements can be taken to facilitate the bone building process.
Once the treatment begins, regular blood tests would have to be conducted so as to keep a check on the level and the increase in levels of the required nutrients. Furthermore, one can continue the intake of Vitamin D supplements, in order to prevent this disorder from recurring. However, it is always better to consult the concerned doctor to avoid any further complications.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.