What is osteomalacia?
Osteomalacia is also known as ‘soft bones’. It causes bone pain, soft or weak bones and poor growth.
The most common osteomalacia symptoms in adults are:
- Fragile bones that break or fracture easily
- Bone pain in the rib, hip, pelvis, thigh and foot
- Finding it hard to walk upstairs or get up from sitting
- Muscle weakness in your thighs and arms
- Walking with a side-to-side stride
What causes osteomalacia in adults?
The most common causes of osteomalacia in adults is a lack of vitamin D (adults need at least 10 micrograms a day), or your body cannot absorb vitamin D properly.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium from your diet, which is essential for your bone health. You can get vitamin D from sunlight, supplements, or certain foods.
It’s thought that more than 50% of the adult population in the UK don’t have enough vitamin D in their body.
Your body’s ability to absorb and use vitamin D can be affected by:
- Surgery that removes part of your intestines or stomach, like a gastric bypass which can result in intestinal malabsorption
- Coeliac disease
- Liver disorders like cirrhosis
- Chronic kidney disease
- Seizure medications, like phenytoin, carbamazepine and phenobarbital
Some tests your GP might recommend to diagnose osteomalacia include:
- Blood tests and urine tests to check the level of vitamin D in your body
- X-ray or MRI scans of your bones to review their structure
- A bone density scan (DEXA scan) to check the amount of phosphate and calcium in your bones
- A bone biopsy, where a piece of bone tissue from your pelvic bone will be removed with a needle under general anaesthetic and tested for signs of vitamin D deficiency
- Reviewed by:
Dr Rhianna McClymont
Lead GP at Livi
- Last updated: