Osteomalacia and osteoporosis are conditions that affect bone tissue and bone formation. Doctors characterize osteomalacia as softening bone, and osteoporosis refers to a loss of bone density.
In osteomalacia, the new bone does not harden as it should, and the bone tissue becomes soft. In osteoporosis, the bone becomes weak and thin because of a disruption in bone formation and bone loss.
This article compares osteomalacia and osteoporosis and looks at the diagnosis, treatments, and outlooks for both.
Osteomalacia and osteoporosis are both conditions that affect the bones.
In osteomalacia, the bones do not harden as they should during a process called bone turnover, which occurs throughout a person’s life.
Bone turnover is a process
Minerals usually coat the collagen layer in a hard, protective shell. However, in a person with osteomalacia, the coating
This malformation can result from vitamin D and calcium deficiencies. In rare cases, it can occur due to inherited genetic disorders.
In a person with osteoporosis, the body breaks down more bone tissue than it replaces. This results in bones becoming porous, with a thin outer layer. The bones may become weak to the point where they can easily break.
Can a person have both?
A person can have both osteomalacia and osteoporosis, although the latter is the more common disease of the two.
Below is a comparison of the symptoms and causes of osteomalacia and osteoporosis.
|Symptoms||Symptoms may |
• muscle spasms
• muscle weakness
• joint and muscle pain
• aching bone pain, especially in the lower limbs, lower spine, and pelvis
• atypical gait
• spinal, pelvic, or limb deformities
• seizure due to a lack of vitamin D
• increased falls
|Osteoporosis may not present symptoms until a person has broken a bone. |
• symptoms of a spinal fracture, such as severe back pain or hunched posture
• fractures in bones from falling, bending, coughing, or lifting
|Causes||Causes and risk factors include low levels of vitamin D and factors and health conditions that may lead to vitamin D deficiency, |
• Crohn’s disease
• celiac disease
• cystic fibrosis
• nephrotic syndrome
• chronic kidney disease
• liver disease
• certain medications, including anti-epileptic drugs and antifungal agents
|Factors that increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis |
• a diet low in calcium and vitamin D
• sex, as females are more likely to develop the disease
• family history of osteoporosis
• race, as Asian and white people are more likely to develop the disease
• body size, as slender people with thin bones are at greater risk
• hormonal changes, such as lower levels of estrogen
• low levels of physical activity
• excessive use of alcohol
• other medical conditions, such as anorexia nervosa and rheumatoid arthritis
• certain medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and cancer medications
|Diagnosis||Doctors may ask about symptoms of bone weakness, and order tests such as: |
• urine and blood analysis to test hormone, enzyme, and mineral levels
• X-rays to determine bone mineral density (BMD)
|To diagnose osteoporosis, doctors may: |
• perform a physical exam
• test BMD with a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry
• look for fractures
Doctors may suggest changes to a person’s diet as well as vitamin D, calcium, and phosphate supplements.
|Treatment may |
• changes to nutrition that include plenty of vitamin D, calcium, and other nutrients
• calcium and vitamin D supplements
• lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking and increasing physical activity
• hormone therapy and estrogen
The outlook for osteomalacia is generally positive. Because issues with vitamin D are typically the cause of the disease, doctors can often treat and cure osteomalacia.
Once a person has begun treatment, their bones usually begin to normalize within weeks, although healing can take a few months to a year.
Osteoporosis can lead to disability and a loss of independence.
Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions about osteomalacia and osteoporosis.
What is the difference between osteomalacia and rickets?
What is the difference between osteomalacia and osteoarthritis?
Osteomalacia affects bone strength and occurs when bones become soft through dysfunction in the bone turnover process.
Osteomalacia and osteoporosis are both conditions that affect bone strength. However, the causes, symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments of each are different.
In osteomalacia, the new bone does not harden, and the bone tissue becomes soft. In osteoporosis, the bone becomes weak and thin because of a disruption in bone formation and bone loss.