What is Osteitis Fibrosa?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Osteitis fibrosa is a condition which is seen in cases of untreated hyperparathyroidism. Today, most patients with overactive parathyroid glands are identified long before complications such as osteitis fibrosa set in. In cases where the problem is allowed to progress, there are a number of treatment options available which can be used to manage the condition and reverse some of the damage.

Osteitis fibrosa causes bones to be easily broken.
Osteitis fibrosa causes bones to be easily broken.

In patients with parathyroid glands which are producing too much parathyroid hormone, the hormone triggers the overproduction of osteoclasts, cells in the bone which are designed to break down bone. This results in loss of bone structure, with minerals from the bone entering the blood stream. Over time, the bones weaken and deform and clusters of tumors can develop on the bones.

Surgery and medication may be used along with physical therapy or guided exercise to regain bone density lost to parathyroid disorders.
Surgery and medication may be used along with physical therapy or guided exercise to regain bone density lost to parathyroid disorders.

Usually symptoms such as excessive thirst and urination, fatigue, nausea, weakness, and vomiting are early warning signs which allow a doctor to identify hyperparathyroidism. Blood tests can be used to check hormone levels in the bloodstream and when the problem is confirmed, treatment can be provided. If the condition is identified too late or it is not well managed, the patient can develop osteitis fibrosa. This condition is characterized by bone pain, frequent fractures, and bone weakness.

Nausea, weakness and vomiting are early signs of hyperparathyroidism.
Nausea, weakness and vomiting are early signs of hyperparathyroidism.

When the bones are x-rayed, the mineral loss will be clearly visible. Blood tests can reveal high levels of parathyroid hormone as well as minerals such as calcium which should be locked away in the bone, not floating freely in the blood. Deformations of the bones such as abnormal curvature may also be visible with medical imaging studies if the patient's bones have been allowed to soften for an extended period of time.

Mineral loss as well as softening and weakening of bones makes those with osteitis fibrosa especially susceptible to fractures.
Mineral loss as well as softening and weakening of bones makes those with osteitis fibrosa especially susceptible to fractures.

Vitamin D supplements can help patients with osteitis fibrosa. Surgical treatments can be used to remove the tumors and address any bone deformities which have developed. Management of the overactive parathyroid gland is also an important part of care, to prevent additional damage and address the risk of complications such as kidney damage.

Blood tests can reveal high levels of parathyroid hormone.
Blood tests can reveal high levels of parathyroid hormone.

Patients can prevent osteitis fibrosa by receiving regular medical examinations and screenings for conditions such as hyperparathyroidism. These screenings can identify hormone imbalances in their early stages, before they have been allowed to progress to stages which cause damage to the body. Managing chronic conditions is also an important part of avoidance of conditions like osteitis fibrosa, as proper medical care can reduce the risk that such conditions will progress to a dangerous level.

Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism may include fatigue and weakness.
Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism may include fatigue and weakness.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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