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Metabolic Bone Diseases

Discover the shocking truth about metabolic bone diseases and how they can impact your overall health and quality of life.

USMLE Guide: Metabolic Bone Diseases


Metabolic bone diseases are a group of disorders that affect the structure and function of the bones. These conditions can result in abnormalities of bone mineralization, bone density, or bone remodeling. This guide will provide you with an overview of the key metabolic bone diseases that you need to know for the USMLE exam.

1. Osteoporosis

  • Osteoporosis is the most common metabolic bone disease.
  • It is characterized by low bone mass and microarchitectural deterioration, leading to increased bone fragility and susceptibility to fractures.
  • Risk factors include advanced age, female sex, postmenopausal status, low body weight, smoking, and sedentary lifestyle.
  • Diagnosis is made by measuring bone mineral density using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA).
  • Treatment involves lifestyle modifications, calcium and vitamin D supplementation, and pharmacological interventions such as bisphosphonates.

2. Paget's Disease of Bone

  • Paget's disease is a chronic disorder characterized by abnormal bone remodeling, resulting in enlarged and deformed bones.
  • It often affects the pelvis, spine, skull, and long bones.
  • Symptoms include bone pain, fractures, deformities, and neurological complications in severe cases.
  • Diagnosis is made by clinical presentation, elevated alkaline phosphatase levels, and characteristic findings on imaging studies (e.g., X-rays, bone scans).
  • Treatment involves bisphosphonates to reduce bone resorption and alleviate symptoms.

3. Osteomalacia

  • Osteomalacia is a condition characterized by defective mineralization of newly formed bone matrix.
  • It results from vitamin D deficiency or impaired vitamin D metabolism.
  • Clinical manifestations include bone pain, muscle weakness, fractures, and deformities.
  • Laboratory findings may reveal low serum calcium, phosphate, and vitamin D levels, along with elevated alkaline phosphatase.
  • Treatment involves vitamin D and calcium supplementation, as well as addressing the underlying cause if applicable.

4. Rickets

  • Rickets is a disorder that primarily affects growing children and is characterized by defective mineralization of developing bone.
  • It is usually caused by vitamin D deficiency or impaired vitamin D metabolism.
  • Clinical features include growth retardation, skeletal deformities (e.g., bowing of the legs), delayed fontanelle closure, and dental abnormalities.
  • Laboratory findings may show low serum calcium, phosphate, and vitamin D levels, along with elevated alkaline phosphatase.
  • Treatment involves correcting vitamin D deficiency through sunlight exposure, dietary modifications, and vitamin D supplementation.

5. Hyperparathyroidism

  • Hyperparathyroidism is a condition characterized by excessive secretion of parathyroid hormone (PTH).
  • Primary hyperparathyroidism is commonly caused by parathyroid adenoma, while secondary hyperparathyroidism is often due to chronic kidney disease or vitamin D deficiency.
  • Clinical manifestations include hypercalcemia, kidney stones, bone pain, and osteoporosis.
  • Laboratory findings may show elevated serum calcium and PTH levels.
  • Treatment involves surgical removal of parathyroid adenoma in primary hyperparathyroidism, and addressing the underlying cause in secondary hyperparathyroidism.


Understanding the key metabolic bone diseases is crucial for the USMLE exam. Remember to familiarize yourself with the clinical presentation, diagnostic criteria, and treatment options for each condition. Good luck with your preparations!

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