Fragile and soft bones in the human skeletal system is a sign of Osteomalacia disorder in adults and Rickets in children. Osteomalacia and Rickets occur when the mineralization of the skeleton is defective and inadequate. This generally develops when the amounts of Vitamin D are insufficient in the diet or more often because of the body’s inability to absorb and metabolize Vitamin D, which is an important ingredient that helps in the absorption of calcium, and which is also needed for the bones and teeth to stay strong and healthy. Deficiency of calcium and phosphorous is also a reason for Osteomalacia or Rickets.
In children, Rickets is easily detectable as the disorder tends to cause pronounced skeletal deformities. In adults Osteomalacia is difficult to diagnose as it is difficult to differentiate it from osteoporosis. In some people who have soft bones due to the deficiency of Vitamin D, repeated pressure on these bones may cause fractures or minor deformities.
There are several reasons (as detailed below) why, Osteomalacia and Rickets disorders happen.
- In adults – when the intestines are unable to efficiently absorb and process Vitamin D
- When disorders of any other organs such as liver, kidneys and the skin occur, and when these organs are unable to synthesize Vitamin D, consequently this causes Osteomalacia
- When there is a deficiency of Vitamin D in the diet, especially in infants exclusively breast-fed and in the elderly. Vitamin D can be supplied in the diet through fortified cereals and dairy products
- When there is inadequate exposure to sunlight, this results in inadequate production of natural Vitamin D, by the skin
- When there is an abnormal reduction of alkalinity or occurance of chronic acidosis, in the blood, caused by renal failure
- When complications due to Hemodialysis occur or because of chronic renal failure
- When there is any interference with the normal metabolism of Vitamin D, such as administration of some anticonvulsant medications that are used to treat epilepsy
- When the blood contains low levels of phosphorous (hypophosphatemia), which is caused by rare hereditary disorders. Sometimes Hypophosphatemia may be caused by continuous use of antacids that are non-absorbent
Related Article: Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
There are several symptoms that help identify Osteomalacia and Rickets, which include:
- Continuous pain in the bones of the arms, spine, hips and legs
- A waddling gait accompanied by weakness of the muscles
- Unidentifiable reasons for fractures and deformities of the bones occurring
- A rare form of disorder that occurs when the calcium levels in the body are low, which cause painful cramps or spasms in the feet, hands and face
- Bowed legs, a waddling gait, pot belly, and disturbed growth in children affected by Rickets
- Abnormal heart rhythms, deformities of skeletal / skull, knock knees, Pigeon chest (protruding chest), numbness of extremities and around the mouth, impaired growth (short stature), dental deformities, delayed formation of teeth, teeth defects, excessive cavities, sleeping disorders, poor tone and development of muscles, and delayed walking in children
Preventing Osteomalacia and Rickets
Intake of adequate amounts of fortified, dietary Vitamin D, (such as mushrooms, dairy products -milk, curd / yoghurt and cheese, oil and fat laden fish, egg yolks, soy milk, fortified cereals, and cod liver oil) and from naturally available sunlight, will help prevent deficiency of Vitamin D.
Osteomalacia caused by Vitamin D deficiency can be cured generally in 6 months. Rickets can be arrested in children, though the deformities will be permanent. Rickets is very common in underdeveloped countries.