Osteomalacia or 'soft bones' implies impaired mineralization of mature bone. It results from inadequate calcium and other minerals in the body. Inadequate minerals may be due to their insufficient intake, absorption, or metabolism due to various effects caused by deficiency of vitamin D. Various studies have shown that Indians have low vitamin D levels.
The disease manifests as pain (usually generalized) and, in late stages, deformities of long bones. Calcium plays a vital role in muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and blood clotting. As a result, osteomalacia patients often complain of muscle pains, fatigue, weakness of limb muscles, and tingling numbness of limbs. Therapy consists of adequate exposure to sunlight and high doses of vitamin D. Associated malnutrition must also be corrected.
Rickets is a similar condition in children. As the bones are still growing, they develop deformities and fracture easily. Dental problems, muscle weakness, bone pains, and growth disturbances are important features of rickets. In addition, protein-energy malnutrition often accompanies the condition.