The key difference between rickets and osteomalacia is that rickets is a bone disease that affects only growing children, while osteomalacia is a bone disease that affects both children and adults.
Bones help people move, give people shape, and support their bodies. They are living tissues that are constantly rebuilt through the lifetime of people. During childhood and teenhood, the body adds new bones faster than it removes old bones. But after the age of 20, the body loses bone faster than it gains. Therefore, to maintain strong bones and to prevent bone loss, people need to get enough calcium and vitamin D. Different kinds of bone diseases include osteoporosis, rickets, osteomalacia, Paget’s disease, bone cancer, osteogenesis imperfect, etc. Rickets and osteomalacia are two different types of bone diseases.
What is Rickets?
Rickets is the softening and weakening of bones in growing children. It is usually due to an extreme and prolonged vitamin D deficiency. Children who don’t get enough vitamin D from sunlight and food can develop a deficiency in vitamin D. Some children are born with medical conditions such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cystic fibrosis, and kidney problems, which may affect the way their bodies absorb vitamins. Moreover, rare inherited genetic problems can also cause rickets. The risk factors for this condition may include dark skin, mother’s vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy, northern latitudes, premature births, medications (anti-seizure and anti-retroviral medications), and exclusive breastfeeding.
The signs and symptoms of rickets include delayed growth, delayed motor skills, pain in the spine, muscle weakness, bowed legs, thickened wrists and ankles, and breastbone projection. This condition can be diagnosed through physical examination for abnormalities in the skull, legs, chest, wrists, ankles, urine analysis, blood test, and X-ray. Furthermore, most cases of rickets are treated with vitamin D and calcium supplements. For spinal deformities, the doctor might use special bracing to position the child’s body appropriately. More severe skeletal deformities in children might require surgery.
What is Osteomalacia?
Osteomalacia is a bone disease that affects both children and adults. It is the marked softening of bones in children and young adults due to severe vitamin D deficiency. Osteomalacia in children and young adults can lead to bowing during growth, especially in weight-bearing bones of legs. Osteomalacia in older adults can lead to fractures. Osteomalacia occurs if the body does not get enough calcium and phosphate, which help body to build strong bones. The human body normally does not get these minerals due to problems in diet or problems in absorption. The problems that lead to osteomalacia include vitamin D deficiency, certain surgeries, celiac disease, kidney or liver disorders, and drugs (anti-seizure drugs).
The sign and symptoms of osteomalacia include pain in bones and joints, muscle pain and weakness, bones that break very easily, difficulty in walking, muscle cramps, pins and needles in hands and feet. The diagnosis of osteomalacia is carried out through bone biopsy, X-ray (bone density scan), blood tests, and urine tests. Furthermore, the main treatments for this condition may include taking enough vitamin D supplements and calcium and phosphorous supplements. The other treatments to relieve the osteomalacia symptoms include wearing braces to reduce bone irregularities, surgery to correct bone deformities, and adequate sun exposure.
What are the Similarities Between Rickets and Osteomalacia?
- Rickets and osteomalacia are two different types of bone diseases.
- These diseases are due to vitamin D deficiency.
- They can be treated by providing adequate vitamin D and calcium.
- They are genetic or acquired conditions.
What is the Difference Between Rickets and Osteomalacia?
Rickets is a bone disease that affects only growing children, while osteomalacia is a bone disease that affects both children and adults. Thus, this is the key difference between rickets and osteomalacia. Furthermore, the prevalence of rickets is 29 per 100,000 children, while the prevalence of osteomalacia is 1 in 1000 people.
The below infographic presents the differences between rickets and osteomalacia in tabular form for side by side comparison.
Summary – Rickets vs Osteomalacia
Bones are living tissues that are constantly going through a cycle of renewal. There are many diseases that affect bones. Rickets is a bone disease that affects only growing children, while osteomalacia is a bone disease that affects both children and adults. So, this summarizes the difference between rickets and osteomalacia.
1. “Rickets.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
2. “Osteomalacia (Soft Bones): Symptoms, Causes, Treatments & Tests.” Cleveland Clinic.