January 17, 2018
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a bone disease. Its name comes from Latin for “porous bones.”
The inside of a healthy bone has small spaces, like a honeycomb. Osteoporosis increases the size of these spaces, causing the bone to lose strength and density. In addition, the outside of the bone grows weaker and thinner.
Osteoporosis can occur in people of any age, but it’s more common in older adults, especially women. People with osteoporosis are at a high risk of fractures, or bone breaks, while doing routine activities such as standing or walking. The most commonly affected bones are the ribs, hips, and the bones in the wrists and spine. For further assessment and treatment of joint pains and osteoporosis, you can consult specialist like Dr Hardik Shah, orthopaedic surgeon in Ahmedabad at Shreeji Orthopaedic and ENT Hospital.
The early stages of osteoporosis don’t cause any symptoms or warning signs. In most cases, people with osteoporosis don’t know they have the condition until they have a fracture.
If symptoms do appear, some of the earlier ones may include:
- receding gums
- weakened grip strength
- weak and brittle nails
If you don’t have symptoms but have a family history of osteoporosis, talking to your doctor can help you assess your risk.
Without appropriate treatment, osteoporosis can worsen. As bones get thinner and weaker, the risk of fracture increases.
Symptoms of severe osteoporosis can include a fracture from a fall or even from a strong sneeze or cough. They can also include back or neck pain, or loss of height. These last two symptoms can be caused by a compression fracture. This is a break in one of the vertebrae in your neck or back, which is so weak that it breaks under the normal pressure in your spine.
If you do have a fracture from osteoporosis, how long it takes to heal will depend on many factors. These include where the fracture is, how severe it is, as well as your age and health history.
A few key causes lead to most cases of osteoporosis.
The biggest cause of osteoporosis is age. Throughout your life, your body breaks down old bone and grows new bone. However, when you’re in your 30s, your body starts breaking down bone faster than it’s able to replace it. This leads to bone that’s less dense and more fragile, and thus more prone to breakage.
Another primary cause of osteoporosis is menopause, which occurs in women around the ages of 45 to 55 years. Due to the change in hormone levels associated with it, menopause can cause a woman’s body to lose bone even more quickly.
Men continue to lose bone at this age, but at a slower rate than women do. However, by the time they reach the ages of 65 to 70, women and men are usually losing bone at the same rate.
Medical conditions or medications
Other causes of osteoporosis include certain medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism. They also include the use of certain medications. Examples of these medications include long-term oral or injected corticosteroids such as prednisone or cortisone.
Age, menopause, certain health conditions, and the use of certain medications may be the primary causes of osteoporosis, but they’re not the only ones.
Osteoporosis risk factors
The biggest risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- being female
- being an older adult
- being Caucasian or Asian
- having a family history of osteoporosis
- poor nutrition
- physical inactivity
- taking certain medications
- low body weight
- small-boned frame
You can control some of these risk factors for osteoporosis, such as poor nutrition and inactivity. For instance, improving your diet and starting an exercise program can benefit your bone health. However, you can’t control other risk factors, such as your age or gender.
You may have heard of senile osteoporosis. This isn’t a separate type of this disease — it’s simply osteoporosis that’s caused by aging. As mentioned above, age is a primary cause of osteoporosis. Unless proper prevention or treatment efforts are made, your body’s increasing breakdown of bone can lead to weakened bones and osteoporosis.
BONE DENSITY TEST
Bone density test for diagnosis
To check for osteoporosis, your doctor will review your medical history and do a physical exam. They may also run tests of your blood and urine to check for conditions that may cause bone loss. If your doctor thinks you may have osteoporosis or that you’re at risk of developing it, they’ll likely suggest a bone density test.
This test is called bone densitometry, or DEXA – dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. It uses X-rays to measure the density of the bones in your wrists, hips, or spine. These are the three areas most at risk of osteoporosis.
This painless test can take from 10 to 30 minutes.
If your testing shows that you have osteoporosis, your doctor will work with you to create a treatment plan. Your doctor will likely prescribe medications as well as lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes can include increasing your intake of calcium salts and vitamin D3 as well as getting appropriate exercise.
There’s no cure for osteoporosis, but proper treatment can help protect and strengthen your bones. These treatments can help slow the breakdown of bone in your body, and some treatments can spur the growth of new bone.
The most common drugs used to treat osteoporosis are called bisphosphonates, calcium preparations, calcitonin etc.