Rheumatology Osteomalacia is a disease characterized by the softening of the bones caused by impaired bone metabolism primarily due to inadequate levels of available phosphate , calcium , and vitamin D , or because of resorption of calcium. The impairment of bone metabolism causes inadequate bone mineralization. Osteomalacia in children is known as rickets , and because of this, use of the term "osteomalacia" is often restricted to the milder, adult form of the disease. Signs and symptoms can include diffuse body pains, muscle weakness, and fragility of the bones. In addition to low systemic levels of circulating mineral ions necessary for bone and tooth mineralization, accumulation of mineralization-inhibiting proteins and peptides such as osteopontin and ASARM peptides occurs in the extracellular matrix of bones and teeth, likely contributing locally to cause matrix hypomineralization osteomalacia. Vitamin D and calcium supplements are measures that can be used to prevent and treat osteomalacia.
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Get help What is osteomalacia? Osteomalacia means soft bones. This process is known as bone turnover. Bone consists of a hard outer shell the cortex made up of minerals, mainly calcium and phosphorus, and a softer inner mesh the matrix made up of collagen fibres. When normal bone is formed, these fibres are coated with mineral. This process is called mineralisation.
The strength of the new bone depends on the amount of mineral covering the collagen matrix. The more mineral laid down, the stronger the bone. In osteomalacia more and more bone is made up of collagen matrix without a mineral covering, so the bones become soft. These softened bones may bend and crack, and this can be very painful. There are rarer types of osteomalacia. These are usually due to problems in the kidneys which result in loss of phosphorous from the body.
This is sometimes inherited and passed from parents to their children in their genes, but can also happen with other kidney problems and occassionally as a side effect of treatment with some drugs. Although we can get vitamin D from foods, most of our supply of vitamin D is produced by the body itself. Cholesterol, which is present naturally in the skin, is converted to vitamin D through the action of sunlight on the skin.
Some people from Asia, particularly from the Indian sub-continent and surrounding region, are particularly at risk of osteomalacia. Many people from the Indian sub-continent and surrounding region are lactose intolerant and so they may not be absorbing enough calcium. Share This Section.