Osteoporosis is a medical condition that causes your bones to become extremely weak over time. Bones are constantly broken down and replaced with new bone by the body. It is a similar process for which the body treats any living tissue. However, if you are suffering from osteoporosis, then your body will not replace the old bones fast enough. This leaves you with bones that may not be strong enough to perform normal tasks. Since this condition will only continue to get worse, you must seek proper medical care to help slow the effects and treat your osteoporosis.
- Osteoporosis affects 200 million women worldwide, approximately 1/10th of women aged 60 and 1/5th of the women aged 70 years.
- 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over age 50 will experience fractures due to osteoporosis.
- Osteoporosis causes more then 8.9 million fractures annually, with an average of one fracture every 3 seconds.
You will not display any symptoms when suffering from the early stages of osteoporosis. Once the bones have become weakened for an extended period of time you will start to feel some painful symptoms.
- The first signs of osteoporosis are an inability to stand up straight and a sore back. Your symptoms will continue to progress as the condition gets worse. This will cause you to get bone fractures after minor accidents.
- The most common location of bone fractures caused by osteoporosis are in the hips, back and wrists.
Osteoporosis can be caused by a number of factors that prevent your body from maintaining strong bone mass.
- Hormone Imbalance: Improper thyroid, estrogen and testosterone hormone levels will accelerate bone loss.
- Lack of calcium in diet: Your body will also have a hard time creating strong bones if you do not consume enough calcium in your diet.
- A sedentary lifestyle, smoking and drinking a lot of alcohol can also increase your risk of developing osteoporosis.
The first step to diagnosing osteoporosis is scheduling an appointment with your primary doctor. They will perform a physical exam and discus your symptoms during this appointment. If they believe you may have brittle bones, then you will be referred to a rheumatologist.
- Bone Density scan: This specialist will perform a bone density test to see the minerals in your bones. This is a completely painless test that has you lie on a comfortable table while an X-ray machine hovers over your body. If the bone density test shows abnormalities in your bones, then you will begin treatment for osteoporosis.
Your osteoporosis treatment will start with medication being prescribed to help stop your bone loss.
- Bisphosphonates: These are the most common medications used to treat weak bones. Taking the bisphosphonates as prescribed will drastically reduce the risk of bone fractures.
- Hormone replacement: If it is believed that your osteoporosis is caused by a hormone imbalance, then you will begin hormone replacement therapy after your diagnosis. This form of treatment will have you taking a synthetic hormone pill every day. Once your hormone levels are normal, then your body will be able to create stronger bones.
- Lifestyle changes are also needed to help treat your osteoporosis. You must abstain from smoking and drinking alcohol. Wearing flat shoes to help prevent falls is also recommended.
While everyone will experience some bone loss later in life, osteoporosis can be prevented by exercising and eating a healthy diet at a young age. There should be adequate amount of calcium intake in the diet. Calcium and Vitamin D supplementation can be useful in children, adults and postmenopausal women.
- Johnell O and Kanis JA (2006) An estimate of the worldwide prevalence and disability associated with osteoporotic fractures. Osteoporos Int 17:1726.
- Melton LJ, 3rd, Atkinson EJ, O'Connor MK, et al. (1998) Bone density and fracture risk in men. J Bone Miner Res 13:1915.
- Melton LJ, 3rd, Chrischilles EA, Cooper C, et al. (1992) Perspective. How many women have osteoporosis? J Bone Miner Res 7:1005
- Kanis JA (2007) WHO Technical Report, University of Sheffield, UK: 66