Osteomalacia is a condition that causes a weakening of the bones. It is different from osteoporosis in that it happens because of a vitamin D deficiency or a disruption in the body’s ability to properly break it down and use it. The nutrient helps the body to absorb calcium and maintain strong bones, so being unable to use it results in the bones becoming soft and frail.
Several factors have been identified as potential causes of osteomalacia. Besides insufficient vitamin D intake or issues with absorbing it, the condition can also manifest as a result of lack of sunlight exposure, which may be due to the shorter days of the winter season, living in a smoggy environment, or using a very strong sunscreen. Various medical issues that have been linked to osteomalacia include kidney failure, cancer, liver disease, lack of phosphate intake through one’s diet, vitamin D metabolism disorders, acidosis, and side effects of seizure medications.
During the early stages, osteomalacia may present no symptoms except those that are visible through various diagnostic tests. Later on, the condition can cause muscle weakness, bone fractures that have no real cause, and widespread pain within the bones, particularly in the pelvis, lower back, ribs, and legs. Pain can become worse at night due to the amount of weight being placed on the affected areas. When calcium levels become low, patients may experience spasms in the feet or hands and numbness in the arms, legs, and around the mouth.
Bones rely on vitamin D for healthy growth and stability of the entire body. If the body is deficient in vitamin D, a person can easily get osteomalacia. Since the sun’s rays enable to body to produce vitamin D, the disease is common in people who do not get enough exposure to sunlight.
Individuals who absorb minimal vitamin D from their diet are also likely to develop osteomalacia. Certain surgeries such as gastrectomy can cause osteomalacia as well.
Apart from this, certain medical conditions that can also cause osteomalacia are celiac disease, liver or kidney dysfunction and antiepileptic use. If the kidneys cannot correctly handle acids, over time, the extra acids in the body fluids can gradually dissolve the bones.
Cancer is also a disease that is linked to osteomalacia. Some medications that treat seizures are also known to cause the condition. Some people get osteomalacia by merely being genetically predisposed to it.
Osteomalacia that stems from a vitamin D deficiency is often resolved with dietary changes or supplements to replace the missing nutrient. Additional supplements can be used when phosphorus and calcium levels are low. Treating any underlying medical issues that are causing osteomalacia will usually correct the problem. The condition often clears up within a few weeks.
To prevent osteomalacia one should be sure to get appropriate sunlight exposure on a daily basis (while making sure to protect themselves from harmful UV rays with adequate sunscreen) since it helps the body to produce vitamin D. People should also take a diet with any of the following vitamin D-rich foods: egg yolks, oily fish, bread, cereals, milk, and yogurt.
In situations where a person is not able to complement adequate vitamin D in the diet, or if an individual has a medical condition affecting the ability of the digestive system to absorb nutrients correctly, then the person needs to check with a doctor concerning vitamin D supplements.
In cases where the digestive system has a difficult time incorporating vitamin D and other nutrients into the body, then one needs to find out the precise cause and treat it. Most likely, one needs to take larger doses of vitamin D and calcium.