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Rickets is a disease characterized by softening of the bones. This disease primarily strikes children, and it is among most frequent childhood diseases in many developing countries. Rickets occurs as a result of deficiency in vitamin D. Insufficient intake of calcium is also associated with this disease. Rickets is usually resulting from famine or malnourishment during the early stages of childhood. When such a disease affects an adult, doctors usually refer to it as to Osteomalacia. Osteomalacia is also distinguished as a disease in which patient’s bones start softening. As in children, the disease is triggered by low levels of vitamin D. Osteomalacia is a serious disease characterized by bones that are more likely to bow and fracture than are healthy bones.

Causes of osteomalacia

The primary cause of bone softening in adults is a defective bone mineralization. This is what distinguishes osteomalacia from a similar disease known as osteoporosis. Osteomalacia occurs as a result of deficient bone-building process, while osteoporosis occurs as a result of weakening of previously constructed bones.

There are many causes of osteomalacia, but most of them ultimately depend on vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency may occur whenever an individual has insufficient vitamin D intake, or does not get enough exposure to sunlight. Our body needs ultraviolet light to convert one form of cholesterol into vitamin D. Whenever a person doesn’t get enough sun exposure, there is an increased risk of developing vitamin D deficiency. People who wear very strong sunscreen, remain covered while outside or live in areas where sunlight hours are short or the air is smoggy, are at increased risk.

Osteomalacia may also occur as a side-effect of certain medical treatments or medical conditions. For example, if an individual has a celiac disease, the lining of the intestine is damaged and doesn't properly absorb nutrients such as vitamin D. Problems with kidneys or liver can also get in the way with one’s ability to process vitamin D. Some drugs used to treat seizures, including phenytoin and Phenobarbital, can cause osteomalacia.

Symptoms of osteomalacia

Osteomalacia normally shows no symptoms in the early stages. Sometimes, diagnostic tests, such as x-rays, can detect the presence of the disease. When the disease gets to a more severe stage, the patient may notice bone pain, especially in the lower spine, pelvis and legs. Weakness in the muscles is also present and it usually manifests as a decrease in muscle tone, general muscular fatigue and reduced ability to move.Treatment of osteomalacia

Osteomalacia is usually treated with vitamin D supplements. Replenishing the levels of vitamin D in the body helps improve the signs and symptoms of the disease in just a couple of weeks. The treatment usually involves an intake of 10,000 IU weekly of vitamin D for four to six weeks.

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