Osteomalacia

The woman's legs second from the right show bowing in osteomalacia.

The legs second from the right show bowing in osteomalacia in contrast to the others.

What Is Osteomalacia?

Osteomalacia is a metabolic bone disorder that causes abnormal skeletal changes characterized by generalized reduction in bone density (bone softening) in adults and pseudofractures (apparant on x-ray) with muscular weakness and bone tenderness.

Bones have the normal amount of living collagen tissue that make up their structure but lack adequate calcium and phosphorus minerals that are required for strength.

Blood studies show the level of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which maintains calcium and phosphorus balance in the body, and the enzyme bone alkaline phosphatase (BALP), which breaks down bone, are elevated while calcium and phosphorus are decreased. Bone biopsy gives the definitive diagnosis.

Q: How do bones get soft?

A: Bones get soft because the normal process of depositing minerals in bone tissue is defective. Bone is continually being remodelled. This is the normal process of breaking down small areas of weak or fractured bone and replacing with healthy bone. The unique cells that break down or dissolve damaged bone are called osteoclasts and cells that build new bone in its place are osteoblasts.

In the condition of osteomalacia, there is not adequate calcium and phosphorus to strengthen new bone made by the osteoblasts and this is the result of inadequate vitamin D. The result is soft bones and weak muscles that worsen as the condition progresses.

The main causes of vitamin D deficiency include malabsorption, poor diet, lack of sunshine, and disorders of vitamin D metabolism. Osteomalacia can also be a feature of systemic disorders such as hyperparathyroidism, partial gastrectomy, pancreatic disease, kidney disease, biliary disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Osteomalacia may be induced by tumors and drugs such as bisphosphonates and certain anti-seizure medications.

What Is Osteomalacia In Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Sensitivity?


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