BONE, SOFTENING OF.—:\ condition which occurs almost only in adults, and which is due to a loss of the lime-salts of the bone. The disease, which is comparatively rare, affects women principally. It appears that it is more frequent in southern Germany and in the Rhine Valley than in the northern parts of Germany. It is very common in certain localities in Switzerland, northern Italy, and Austria, but comparatively rare in Great Britain.
The cause and nature of the softening are not thoroughly understood as vet. Among the causes which give rise to the appearance of the disease are, principally, rapidly succeeding pregnancies and long-continued nursing with insufficient nutrition. It is claimed, further, that damp and dark dwellings or bed-rooms, improper food (too many potatoes ; sour, black rye bread, etc.), and occupations which subject the patient to cold and dampness, play a part in the occurrence of the affection.
The first symptom of the disease is pain in the bones involved, mostly in the pelvis. The pains radiate towards the spinal column and thighs, and are at first often taken to be rheumatic. Soon, however, an uncertain, dragging, or peculiarly waddling gait becomes noticeable. Sitting causes pain, and the hones bend. The spinal column, no longer able to carry the weight of the body, curves backward, and, as a result. the patients grow shorter. When the disease has reached a more advanced stage walking becomes impossible, and the patients must remain in bed.
:11though the course of the disease is a slow one, it is not always unfavour able. Cessations and even cures have been observed. It is true, however, that the danger of a recurrence and progress of the disease is connected with every new pregnancy. Treatment is not quite as hopeless as it appears. If unfavourable conditions of life are present, they should be abolished. Dark and damp dwellings should be exchanged for bright and airy ones. The diet should preferably consist of foods which are rich in phosphorus and lime, such as eggs, meat, certain vegetables (beans, peas), and cheese. Potatoes must be avoided, and food which contains sugar should be taken only in moderation, but fruit is admissible. Warm baths in the form of sheet packs, with or without additions (salts, brine, herbs), and sun baths usually act very beneficially. A comfortable resting-place should be provided, with suitable bolsters, \ vater-bags, etc. In addition to cod-liver oil, iron and phosphorus are useful medicines in this disease. Recurrence of pregnancies should be avoided if possible. If the disease progresses in spite of careful treatment, there remains as a last resort CASTRATION, which has given good results. A particular type of bone-softening is seen in children who suffer from RICKETS.