What is Osteoporosis? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Osteoporosis is a major public health threat for more than 28 million Americans, 80 percent of whom are women. In the U.S. today, 10 million individuals already have the disease and 18 million more have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis.

One in two women and one in eight men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. 10% of African-American women over age 50 have osteoporosis; an additional 30% have low bone density that puts them at risk of developing osteoporosis.

Significant risk has been reported in people of all ethnic backgrounds. While osteoporosis is often thought of as an older person’s disease, it can strike at any age.

Osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures annually, including: 300,000 hip fractures; and approximately 700,000 vertebral fractures, 250,000 wrist fractures, and 300,000 fractures at other sites.

Women are more prone to osteoporosis, making it almost an inevitable occurrence in their lives, especially during the older years. Let us look into why osteoporosis is seen as a “curse” for women:

The peak bone mass, i.e., the maximum bone content of the body is achieved by about 35 years in both men and women. But, on an average, the amount of bone in men’s body is much higher due to strong physique.

So, with ageing, even if men lose a little bit of bone they would not develop osteoporosis. Whereas women have less bone reserve in their bodies and loss of even small amounts of bone can lead to Osteoporosis.

Male and female sex hormones help in maintaining bone health both quantitatively and qualitatively. Unfortunately, the female hormone – estrogen – suddenly drops to a bare minimum level at the time of menopause.

The female body then starts losing bone content rapidly, leading to osteoporosis. The drop of sex hormone in men is more gradual and hence there will be no sudden onset of Osteoporosis in men, though it may still happen at a later age.

What is Osteoporosis

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a rheumatological disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. If not prevented or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. These broken bones, also known as fractures, occur typically in the hip, spine, and wrist.

It is a physiological condition wherein the density and quality of the bones are reduced, leading to their weakness with increase risk of fracture. There is another type, secondary osteoporosis, which can occur at items due to some medications.

Osteoporosis Symptoms:

Osteoporosis is often called the silent disease, because bone loss occurs without any symptoms and you may realize only after suffering from a fracture.

People may not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes a fracture or a vertebra to collapse.

Collapsed vertebrae may initially be felt or seen in the form of severe back pain or spinal deformities such as kyphosis or stooped posture.

  • Bone loss is progressive and bones break easily.
  • You may develop back pain due to softening of bones in the spine.

Diagnosis:

A DEXA test can measure bone density in various sites of the body and compare with normal range. This test can predict your chance of fracture in the future and help in monitoring the effects of treatment.

Peak Bone Mass:

The bone is a mineral bank whose assets must be built up, maintained and ultimately protected. We develop our final bone structure by the age of 25 to 35 years. We do not add much to our bone mass after that and unfortunately it is only a downhill course thereafter.

Hence, it is highly important to achieve the maximum possible amount of bone mass by that age, which can be done only with good diet, regular exercise, avoiding smoking and drinking.

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Common Fractures:

• Spine is the most common site for a fracture due to osteoporosis. It may be a sudden fracture (crumbling) of one vertebra due to minor trauma with sudden back pain, or minor fractures of several vertebrae occurring gradually with slow onset of back pain. This may, in time, lead to the commonly seen hunch back in the elderly.

• Other common site of fracture is wrist.

• The most troublesome is hip fracture.

Risk Factors:

• Women who have had their wombs and ovaries removed at a young age, or early menopause.

• Mother or sister suffered from osteoporosis.

• Thin built with small physique.

• Improper dietary habits.

• Inactive lifestyle.

• Smokers and drinkers.

• Patients with bowel diseases.

• Patient on steroids.

The Treatment of Osteoporosis:

• The treatment of Osteoporosis should start with prevention, which should start from ‘teen’ age at least, so that we can build the maximum possible bone mass.

• Balanced diet containing vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients.

• Weight bearing exercises to improve bone and muscle strength and coordination.

• Once Osteoporosis is established, the treatment varies according to the severity and would be decided by your doctor.

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