Osteomalacia/Rickets​


Osteomalacia is the softening of bones. The disease causes the bones to bend (called bowing) and even break (fracture), disturbing your upright posture and various movements. ​

Under normal circumstances, the basic framework of bone is built and then mineral calcium is deposited in it, making them hard and tough. A defect in the building process and/or bone mineralization is defined as osteomalacia. When the same irregularity occurs in children, it is termed as Rickets. Do not hesitate to consult the Children's Hospital Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital if your little one exhibits similar symptoms.

The most common cause of osteomalacia is vitamin D deficiency. In older adults this is often due to inadequate dietary intake. Sunlight is an excellent source of vitamin D, so those who are hospitalized or housebound for long periods, may have lower levels.  Certain other diseases and procedures, which interfere with vitamin D absorption into the body (celiac disease, surgery on stomach/intestines) or its chemical processing (kidney and liver disorders), can also leave a person with insufficient stores. Some medications (like phenytoin) have a role in the development of osteomalacia. 

If you believe you may be suffering from osteomalacia, it is possible to experience mild symptoms in the initial stages. They may become more prominent as the disease progresses.

Symptoms may include:

  • Bone pain (dull ache): since bone is breaking down faster than it can reform. Common sites affected are the lower back, ribs, hips, pelvis and legs. You may feel the pain is worse at night.

  • Muscle weakness

  • General feeling of tiredness

  • A waddling gait: if you have hip pain and the tone of your thigh muscles decreases, it might be tough for you to move about in the usual manner, so your style of walking would be different.  ​

All of the above complaints are not to be brushed off as insignificant. When symptoms are subtle they can easily be connected to being tired. However, it is in your best interest to register yourself with a physician at the Family Health Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital. They perform regular health checks and are bound to pick up any disease in the early stages.

If special consult or treatment is required at any time, you may be referred to the Musculoskeletal and Sports Medicine Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital.

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

In the attempts to diagnose osteomalacia, your doctor may order one or more of the following:

  • Blood or urine tests: to check levels of vitamin D or minerals like calcium or phosphate 

  • X-ray image: gives an idea of bone health and structure

  • Bone biopsy: sample from bone will be taken for microscopic evaluation

  • Bone Mineral Density (BMD) scan: this measures the amount of minerals like calcium in bone​

Since the basic impairment is due to vitamin deficiency the primary goal will be to replenish these low levels. Oral supplements of vitamin D, calcium and phosphate may be prescribed for a couple of weeks, up to a few months.

You can work out a plan with your physician to exercise and increase your exposure to sunlight in a safe and healthy manner

In severe cases, if bone becomes deformed corrective surgery may be required.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

 The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

 The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments' costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage


​​The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.