Bones are not only responsible for determining the shape of the body but also give strength to perform any action. We cannot imagine our body without bones or even with weak bones. Any kind of trouble- minor or major in the bones can affect the lifestyle negatively. Osteomalacia is one such condition that affects bones in the body in an undesirable way.
The literal meaning of Osteomalacia is ‘soft bones'. In this condition, the bones are more prone to breaks and bends as they do not harden or mineralize as they do in case of a normal body. There is a hairline difference between Osteomalacia and Osteoporosis. In the former condition, hardening of bones is missing whereas, in the latter, bones become weak gradually. Osteomalacia occurs in the process of bone building/ growth/formation whereas Osteoporosis occurs in a grown-up bone.
Osteomalacia is like rickets in children. In adults, the condition is named as Osteomalacia. This condition is more common in women than men and it usually occurs in women during pregnancy. It is quite understandable as during pregnancy women's body needs a greater amount of vitamins and minerals than regular consumption. Many women might not be consuming necessary minerals in sufficient quantities, thereby leading to Osteomalacia. Besides this, there are other causes of Osteomalacia appearing in the human body (men or women) some of which are listed below:
As mentioned above, not consuming the necessary vitamins and minerals in sufficient quantity as required by our body is the prime reason for the condition of Osteomalacia occurring in any human being. These minerals not only maintain current strength of your bones but also help to grow it. Out of all vitamins and minerals, Vitamin D is most vital.
- Lack of Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency in the body can lead to Osteomalacia. Vitamin D can primarily be absorbed from sunlight and thereafter from certain foods. In absence of adequate consumption from either source, supplements of Vitamin D can be consumed. It is essential to follow the right way at the right time to consume these supplements else they will not be useful. Vitamin D is required to absorb calcium in the body through the dietary intake. If Vitamin D is insufficient in your body, you are likely to suffer from lack of calcium too. Both the deficiencies are against your bone health and can ultimately lead to Osteomalacia.
- Lack of absorption of Vitamin D: Even if you are taking enough Vitamin D via food, or you are spending a good amount of time in sunlight at desired hours, sometimes your body may not be absorbing all the amount of Vitamin D you are taking. It is true that few people face lack of absorption of Vitamin D in the body despite adequate consumption of the Vitamin. This lack of absorption of Vitamin D could be the result of some surgery that you might have gone through like gastric bypass or any other surgery in which you lost parts of your stomach or intestines. Seizure medications and a few other drugs are other reasons for restricting absorption of Vitamin D by the body. Sometimes liver and kidney disorders can also disable the body from absorbing Vitamin D. Autoimmune disorder like Celiac disease also do not allow to absorb Vitamin D as in this disease the lining of small intestine gets damaged by consumption of gluten-rich food. This damaged lining fails to absorb nutrients and also Vitamin D leading to its deficiency.
- Overproduction of Acids: If too many acids are produced in the body or kidneys and other body parts are not able to handle it, then gradually these acids are likely to affect the bones adversely.
It is essential to know the symptoms of Osteomalacia as this will help in finding out if you have this condition in your body. Even if you have these symptoms, consider yourself lucky in case you diagnose the condition in time. Usually, most of these symptoms appear at a later stage of the condition but if you can identify them at an early stage, then you can save yourself from its effects. There are treatments that can be done and precautions that can be taken at even later stages of Osteomalacia to stop things from worsening. Some common symptoms that patients with Osteomalacia face are:
- Easily getting a fracture in bones.
- Having low energy or getting tired soon.
- Stiffness in bone joints and other body parts.
- Weak body muscles especially of arms and thighs.
- The onset of pain without any reason in any bone chiefly back, pelvis, legs, ribs, and hips
- Discomfort while getting up from a seat.
- Slow walking, difficulty in walking or waddling.
Since low levels of Vitamin D signifies the low level of calcium too, it is wise to understand the symptoms of low calcium levels in the body. Some of the major symptoms are:
- Numbness around the mouth, arms, and legs
- Spasms in the hands and feet
- Irregular heart rhythms
If you are facing any of the symptoms mentioned above in your body regularly it could be a sign of Osteomalacia. If you feel that you are consuming less of Vitamin D and want to confirm that you are still safe from Osteomalacia or into it then instead of being in a state of the dilemma it is better to confirm the facts. It is advisable to clear your doubts by a proper diagnosis under medical supervision to ensure whether you are suffering from Osteomalacia or not.
- Blood Test: To confirm the existence of the Osteomalacia condition in your body, a medical practitioner would primarily advise blood test which will determine the levels of Vitamin D present in your body. On comparing the levels of Vitamin D in your body with normal values (as it should be in normal human being of your age and gender), the doctor will be able to advise you whether Vitamin D in your body is sufficient, insufficient or deficient. These levels differ in men, women, and children. Everything is usually mentioned in the test reports clearly. The doctor can also recommend testing calcium and phosphorus levels which will again help to figure out the actual condition of Osteomalacia in your body.
- X-Ray: In line with the blood test, the doctor could advise you the other way of diagnosing Osteomalacia i.e. X-Ray. X-Ray of one or multiple body parts will determine your bone structure, which will guide about the current condition of your bones, whether they are hard as required, or soft. This will help to determine the stage of Osteomalacia in patient’s body.
Bone mineral density test: In addition to the above measures, there is another test in name of bone mineral density test which accurately determines the amount of calcium and phosphate in the bones of the body. However, this test is least recommended by doctors because to complete this test, a person has to undergo a bone biopsy, which involves collecting a piece of the bone tissue which will be checked in the laboratory for the amount of calcium and phosphate.
To treat this condition of Osteomalacia, the following steps could be taken:
- It is essential to have a diet rich in Vitamin D. Some foods that could be consumed to seek Vitamin D are Milk and milk products like cheese, yoghurt. Cereals and orange juice (fortified with Vitamin D) are some vegetarian sources of Vitamin D. Eggs, fish (tuna, swordfish, salmon, sardines) and liver are other recommended sources of Vitamin D which can enrich Vitamin D levels considerably. Along with the above foods, regular intake of supplements of Vitamin D is also essential. Follow the quantity of supplement intake as prescribed by your doctor.
- In addition to taking Vitamin D supplements and Vitamin D rich food, it is vital to have adequate sunlight exposure as it is the biggest source of Vitamin D. While doing this step of treatment you should be cautious of sunburns on your skin for which you can use sunscreens or sit in sunlight during morning hours preferably.
- If your body is failing to absorb an adequate amount of Vitamin D, then either you would need to consume a higher amount of Vitamin D than usually required by a patient deficient in Vitamin D levels. Else your doctor could also treat you for the cause of low absorption of Vitamin D in your body.
- Acid production, the other cause of Osteomalacia, can also be regularized through medication by a doctor so that the excess amount of acid produced may not damage your bones over a period of time.
- If by any chance, you are already suffering from a deformed or broken bone due to Osteomalacia, then your doctor will give the right treatment. In minor cases, braces to shape the bone would work. However, in severe cases, a surgery might be the right solution. In either case, your doctor will be the best guide for you after reviewing your exact condition thoroughly. It is important to consult an experienced and specialized doctor for the purpose.
It is rightly said that prevention is better than cure and even treatment. If you will take preventions well in time, you may not need to take treatment for Osteomalacia at all.
- The first and the foremost prevention step from this condition is consuming an adequate level of Vitamin D, preferably through food rich in Vitamin D (as mentioned above).
- You can also expose your body to sunlight for a minimum essential time required to obtain Vitamin D from this natural source.
- If you feel that even after taking above preventive measures you may lack Vitamin D, then you can consume Vitamin D supplements in the prescribed limit.
Ignoring any medical condition is very dangerous because it could lead to further complications. This applies to any kind of problem. Same is the case with symptoms of Osteomalacia. Complications that one might face due to Osteomalacia are deformity in bone structure. These deformities get worse over the years and could hinder one’s smooth lifestyle unless taken care of in time. Such deformities or other symptoms need immediate attention and treatment. The correction procedure for deformed bones is possible; however, it is not that easy and could be painful at times. In severe cases, surgery may also be recommended by doctors which would be the last resort. Hence, it is better to take preventive measures or the treatment, as the case may be, well in time.
Another complication in Osteomalacia is lack of resistance of bones towards fractures. As we know the bones do not harden under Osteomalacia, the tender bones in this condition can break even with minor jerks. Hence, it is advisable to refrain from this complication as well by taking the required prevention or treatment measures, as the body demands.
Myth #1: Myth regarding Osteomalacia is that it is often mixed up with Osteoporosis by a layman. As explained above, Osteoporosis is different from Osteomalacia. Osteoporosis leads to weakening or thinning of bones whereas Osteomalacia stops hardening / mineralizing / strengthening of bones over a period of time.
Myth #2: Osteomalacia is not treatable is another myth that you might come across while enquiring about the condition. However, the fact differs. The condition is treatable, though may not be cured completely for lifelong. One can have supplements to maintain Vitamin D levels, the deficiency of which is the main cause of Osteomalacia. Additionally, if a patient is at the later stages of Osteomalacia and already has a deformed bone, then also treatment is possible to an extent as mentioned above.
Myth #3: A patient of Osteomalacia must keep in mind that regular intake of supplements is essential as a part of the treatment of the condition. The patient will experience improvement in symptoms few weeks after the treatment starts. If you will stop consuming the supplements at any time, the symptoms could reappear. Hence, regular consumption of Vitamin D, Calcium and other supplements (that may be required for the purpose) is essential to have good control over Osteomalacia.