Last revised by David Carroll on 26 Mar 2024

Skeletal fluorosis is a chronic metabolic bone disease caused by the ingestion of large amounts of fluoride.

While often asymptomatic, non-specific signs and symptoms may be present, including 8:

  • bone and joint pains

  • kyphosis

  • radiculomyelopathy

  • dental fluorosis, with characteristic mottling of dental enamel

Large amounts of fluoride may be ingested through either water or food in geographic areas where high levels of fluoride occur naturally. Xenobiotics associated with fluorosis include fluorinated hydrocarbons 9 (e.g. difluoroethane), sodium-aluminum fluoride (also known as Cryolite), sulfuryl fluoride 10, and voriconazole, the latter of which may be associated with a diffuse asymmetric periostitis secondary to elevated fluoride levels 7. Regardless of the cause, fluoride forms fluorapatite, which stimulates osteoblastic activity and periostitis 7.

Described features include:

In early fluorosis, the first changes are bone deposition and thickening at the junctions of trabeculae. This is seen as a sand-like, granular, or particle-like bone structure on radiographs. In more advanced fluorosis, the trabeculae are more generally thickened because of new bone formation on the trabecular surface. At this stage, radiographs show thickening and condensation of trabeculae, with coarse reticulum or woven bone striations. If the trabeculae are fused, focal round densities are seen in the medullary bone.

Involvement of the axial skeleton is characteristic, and changes are most marked in the spine, pelvis, and ribs. Calcification of the sacrotuberous ligament is considered another characteristic feature.

No specific treatment is available, and treatment is thus symptomatic 8.

For diffuse skeletal sclerosis on imaging, consider:

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