Osteomalacia Causes and Treatment

Osteomalacia is now rare in westernized countries but still common in many third-world countries. It is the adult form of rickets in children. Both diseases are caused by a lack of calcium and the resultant softening of the bones. In adults, the most common cause is a disease of the parathyroid gland in the neck, which controls the calcium balance of the body. If this gland is overactive, calcium is drawn out of the bones and osteomalacia results. Other causes of osteomalacia include a deficiency in vitamin D or phosphate (both are essential to control calcium activity within the body), kidney failure, alcoholism, poisons and a number of rarer diseases.

The symptoms may be very mild, and the disease is detected by a routine blood test or X-ray; or the patient may have muscle weakness, tiredness, and bone pain. Fractures are only slightly more common than would normally be expected. Blood tests, X-rays and bone biopsy are used to confirm the diagnosis.

The treatment involves correcting the cause. This may involve improving the diet, prescribing vitamin D, and giving calcium supplements.

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