Difference between osteoporosis & osteomalacia

Written by jane williams | 13/05/2017
Difference between osteoporosis & osteomalacia
Soft or brittle bones? (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Erik Charlton)

Although both conditions have to do with bone strength, osteoporosis and osteomalacia have to do with two different aspects of bones. Osteoporosis refers to the degeneration of already constructed bone, making them brittle, while osteomalacia is an abnormality in the building process of bone, making them soft.


Osteoporosis occurs when old bone breaks down faster than your body can create new bone to replace it. Osteomalacia results from a deficiency in calcium and phosphate, usually due to inadequate levels of vitamin D or sunlight.


Both conditions may not exhibit any symptoms in the early stages, but as they progress pain tends to be an early indication that something may be wrong. Osteoporosis symptoms may also include frequent fractures and a loss of height as the spine compresses. Osteomalacia can also result in muscle weakness, usually in your arms and legs.


X-rays can be effective tools in diagnosing most cases of osteoporosis and osteomalacia. Additional tests such as ultrasounds, CTs and blood tests may also be performed, depending on your symptoms.


Osteoporosis is usually treated with various medications, such as raloxifene and calcitonin, which can help to slow the progression of the bone deterioration. Since osteomalacia is usually caused by a dietary or sunlight deficiency, getting extra doses of these two elements can help improve the condition.


Your risk for developing both conditions can be reduced by getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Osteoporosis may also be slowed by strengthening your bones by exercising and following a healthy diet. Osteomalacia can be prevented by spending some time in the sun to help your body produce proper levels of vitamin D.

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