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Osteomalacia - What Is It, Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Home > Blogs > Osteomalacia - What Is It, Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Osteomalacia - What Is It, Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Orthopedics & Joint Replacement | by Dr. Rakesh Rajput | Published on 20/09/2023


If you experience symptoms like pain in the legs often, then it can be an indication of osteomalacia. It is also referred to as the silent bones underminer and is not a very well-known condition. However, this is a relevant bone disorder affecting innumerable people across the world. This condition affects bone health and may not lead to garnering similar attention as osteoporosis. 

Osteomalacia condition affects individuals of all age groups as every individual’s bones continuously experience a process known as bone turnover. Bone turnover is referred to as when the body is reabsorbing the old tissue and producing new bone tissue, beginning with the softer inner layer containing collagen. Mineralization is another process in which the inner layer is coated with minerals forming an outer shell that is hard. People with osteomalacia have to experience the process as the shell doesn’t produce completely which leads to soft collagen. 

In this blog, you will find a comprehensive elaboration on osteomalacia including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. However, kindly note that it is research-based information and doesn’t interfere with the consultation of a healthcare professional. You can book your appointment with The Calcutta Medical Research Institute in Kolkata, the best multispeciality hospital offering the most exceptional patient care and healthcare services. 

What is osteomalacia?

Osteomalacia also referred to as bone softening is a condition in which new bone finds it difficult to harden the bones the way it should after formation. This disease leads to bone weakening and causing them to break effortlessly. It is an illness of reduced mineralization resulting in bone breakdown quicker than it is reformed. This condition often affects adults, whereas, in children, improper Vitamin D concentrations lead to rickets. 

What is the difference between osteoporosis and osteomalacia?

In osteoporosis condition, bone mass declines, however, the bone-mineral ratio remains normal. On the other hand, in osteomalacia, the bone mineral and matrix is quite low. Osteomalacia condition targets bone strength and develops when bones are soft through dysfunction during the bone turnover process. On the contrary, osteoporosis is a degenerative illness in which an individual experiences wearing down of the joints over time causing pain, stiffness, swelling, and reduced mobility. 

What are osteomalacia symptoms?

Osteomalacia symptoms might vary from person to person and on other factors like medical condition, age, etc. Some people might experience the symptoms while some may not. However, the common symptoms of osteomalacia involve: 

  • Facing problems when walking 
  • Muscle spasms 
  • Leg, upper thighs, and knee pain 
  • Bones that are light-sensitive 
  • Weight-bearing bones pseudofractures like pelvis and feet 
  • Experiencing muscle stiffness, soreness, and weakness in the shoulders, upper legs, buttocks, and trunk

What are osteomalacia causes?

One of the most common causes of osteomalacia is vitamin D which is a vital nutrient. Vitamin D helps in absorbing calcium in the abdomen and maintaining the levels of phosphates and calcium so that bones can form correctly. Certain reasons are there that can result in vitamin D deficiency such as an issue with a well-balanced diet, no exposure to sunlight, and problems with the intestines. 

Some conditions are there which can interrupt vitamin D absorption: 

  • Celiac disease causes harm to the intestine lining and averts key nutrient absorption like vitamin D. 
  • Some forms of cancer also interrupt the processing of vitamin D. 
  • Disorders linked to the kidney and liver lead to affecting vitamin D metabolism.

How is osteomalacia diagnosed?

Osteomalacia condition is diagnosed by a rheumatologist, a doctor having the expertise to treat joint and muscle disorders, and also by an endocrinologist, who has the expertise to treat metabolic bone disorders. The healthcare professional will initiate the diagnosis by understanding the medical condition of a patient, symptoms, and sometimes family history as well. Depending on the obtained information, the following tests are recommended to confirm the osteomalacia diagnosis: 

  • Vitamin D test- It is ordered as one of the most important causes of osteomalacia is vitamin D. Reduction in phosphate levels also is an indication of osteomalacia. 
  • X-rays- It is the most useful tests when it comes to diagnosing osteomalacia condition. 
  • Bone mineral density scan- It benefits in assessing the calcium amount and other minerals that exist in the segment of a patient’s bone. These scans are majorly needed to understand the bone health of a patient. 

In a very rare case, a bone biopsy is performed to examine the bone tissue sample. This helps in confirming the diagnosis of osteomalacia. Depending on the diagnosis, the doctor can recommend suitable treatment. 

What are the options for osteomalacia treatment?

Osteomalacia treatment is recommended to the patient depending on their symptoms, causes, and diagnosis. The doctor will first identify the best-suited treatment for the patient and then prescribe it so that it can benefit them efficiently. Usually, patients with osteomalacia are prescribed supplements for vitamin D, phosphate, and calcium. People who are diagnosed with intestinal malabsorption means that their intestines don’t have the efficiency of absorbing nutrients or vitamins correctly may have to take huge amounts of vitamin D and calcium supplements.

Other treatment approaches are available for osteomalacia which include:

  • Getting regular exposure to sunlight in the morning at least for 20-30 minutes 
  • Surgery is recommended for those with bone deformities 
  • Wear braces to reduce or avert the irregularities of bone 


Osteomalacia is a bone condition that should not be overlooked once it is diagnosed, there can be a risk of complications. It involves fracturing the bones easily like legs, spine bones, and ribs. In children, osteomalacia and rickets happen together causing premature tooth loss or leg bowing. It is possible that symptoms can recur again if sufficient vitamin D is not available. The condition also returns when the patient doesn’t take the supplements as recommended or if an underlying condition like kidney failure is not addressed. It is always the best idea to get in touch with your doctor so that they can create a treatment plan depending on your healthcare requirements.



What causes osteomalacia in adults?

Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common causes in adults. 

Does osteomalacia lead to osteoporosis?

No, osteomalacia and osteoporosis both are different conditions related to bones. 

Is osteomalacia curable?

Yes, osteomalacia can be cured with vitamin D, calcium, and phosphate supplements

How to prevent osteomalacia?

You can prevent osteomalacia by following a proper diet, exercising, and getting regular sunlight at least for thirty minutes a day.