Osteodystrophy (cont.)

What is renal osteodystrophy?

The medical term "renal" describes things related to the kidneys. Renal osteodystrophy is a bone disease that occurs when your kidneys fail to maintain the proper levels of calcium and phosphorus in your blood. It's a common problem in people with kidney disease and affects most dialysis patients.

Renal osteodystrophy is most serious in children because their bones are still growing. The condition slows bone growth and causes deformities. One such deformity occurs when the legs bend inward toward each other or outward away from each other; this deformity is referred to as "renal rickets." Another important consequence is short stature. Symptoms can be seen in growing children with renal disease even before they start dialysis.

The bone changes from renal osteodystrophy can begin many years before symptoms appear in adults with kidney disease. For this reason, it's called the "silent crippler." The symptoms of renal osteodystrophy aren't usually seen in adults until they have been on dialysis for several years. Older patients and women who have gone through menopause are at greater risk for this disease because they're already vulnerable to osteoporosis, another bone disease, even without kidney disease. If left untreated, the bones gradually become thin and weak, and a person with renal osteodystrophy may begin to feel bone and joint pain. There's also an increased risk of bone fractures.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/3/2014

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