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November 1971

Osteomalacia Induced by Laxative (Phenolphthalein) Ingestion

Author Affiliations


From the departments of medicine (Drs. Frame and Guiang), orthopedic surgery (Dr. Frost), and radiology (Dr. Reynolds), Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit.

Arch Intern Med. 1971;128(5):794-796. doi:10.1001/archinte.1971.00310230124014

A 51-year-old woman developed skeletal symptoms due to histologically proved osteomalacia. The etiology could not be determined until a history of factitial diarrhea due to long-term phenolphthalein (Ex-Lax) ingestion was finally elicited. Normal bowel habits returned after the use of phenolphthalein was discontinued and the osteomalacia showed signs of healing. Surreptitious ingestion of cathartics should be considered as a causal factor in patients with unexplained osteomalacia.

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