Osteomalacia, commonly referred to as rickets, is a softening of the bones that may occur as a result of a vitamin D deficiency. Bones affected by osteomalacia lack the proper amount of calcium, resulting in bones that are soft and more likely to fracture. This condition often leads to a dull aching pain in the bones, especially in the hips and lower back, and decreased muscle tone and strength. The main cause of osteomalacia is a vitamin D deficiency which may be the result of limited exposure to sunlight, a limited diet, stomach surgery, or certain anti-seizure medications. Underlying conditions such as cancer, kidney failure, celiac disease, or liver disorders, may cause nutrient absorption problems that may lead to osteomalacia as well.
Osteomalacia is diagnosed through a physical examination and a review of symptoms. Diagnostic tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Bone biopsy
A bone mineral density test may also be performed to evaluate the health of the bones and determine any underlying cause of symptoms.
Treatment for osteomalacia focuses on correcting the vitamin D deficiency in the body through supplements or injections for several weeks, as well as long-term dietary changes. Exposure to moderate amounts of sunlight may also be encouraged. Treating any underlying conditions can also help to relieve symptoms. Leg braces may be recommended in children suffering from rickets, to prevent deformities.