Osteomalacia is softening of the bones. It occurs because of a lack of vitamin D or a problem with the body's ability to break down and use this vitamin, which helps your body absorb calcium. Your body needs calcium to maintain the strength and hardness of your bones.
Bones that have softened due to osteomalacia have a normal amount of collagen, which gives structure to the bones. However, the bones lack the proper amount of calcium to keep them hard.
There are many causes of osteomalacia. In children, the condition is called rickets. It is most often caused by a low level of vitamin D.
Other conditions that may lead to osteomalacia include:
Not enough vitamin D in the diet
Not enough exposure to sunlight, which produces vitamin D in the body
Gordon A. Starkebaum, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.