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Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis – porous bone – is a disease in which there is a loss of bone mass and the destruction of bone tissue. This process causes weakening of the bones, making them much more likely to break. The bones most often affected are the wrists, hips, and spine.

Who is affected by osteoporosis?

More than 10 million Americans older than 50 years of age are affected by osteoporosis. Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. Another 34 million Americans older than age 50 have low bone mass, known as osteopenia, and therefore have an increased risk for osteoporosis. Estrogen deficiency is one of the main causes of bone loss in women during and after menopause. Women may lose up to 20% of their bone mass in the five to seven years following menopause.

Other risks factors for osteoporosis:

While the exact medical cause for osteoporosis is not known, several factors contribute to the condition, including the following:

Aging – Bones become less dense and weaken with age.

 

Race – White and Asian women are most at risk, although all races may develop the disease.

 

Body weight – Obesity is associated with a higher bone mass, therefore people who weigh less and have less muscle are more at risk of developing osteoporosis.

 

Lifestyle factors – These lifestyle factors might increase the risk of osteoporosis:

  • Caffeine

  • Physical inactivity

  • Smoking

  • Excessive alcohol use

  • Certain medications

  • Family history of bone disease

  • Dietary calcium and Vitamin D deficiency

 

The symptoms of osteoporosis may resemble other bone disorders or medical problems. Always consult with your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

Your provider will take a complete personal and family medical history and perform a physical examination. Diagnostic procedures for osteoporosis may include:

  • Bone density testing – also called densitometry. It measures the mass of bone in relation to its volume to determine the risks of developing osteoporosis. This testing is primarily done to identify people with osteoporosis and osteopenia, which his decreased bone mass that hasn’t yet reached the level of osteoporosis. This is so your provider can implement the appropriate treatment and medical therapy. Early treatment will help prevent future bone fractures. It may also be recommended for those who have already fractured a bone and are at a risk for developing osteoporosis.

  • X-rays – These diagnostic tests use invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film for review.

  • Blood tests – These tests are done to measure serum calcium and potassium levels.

  • FRAX score – A score given to estimate the risk of a fracture within 10 years. The score uses the results of a bone densitometry test as well as other individual factors.

 

The effects of this disease can best be managed with early diagnosis and treatment.

What are the treatment options for osteoporosis?

The specific treatment for osteoporosis will be determined by your provider based on the following:

  • Your age, medical history, and overall health

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your tolerance of specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your preferences and opinions

 

The goals of managing osteoporosis are to decrease pain, prevent fractures, and minimize further bone loss. Some of the methods used to treat osteoporosis are also methods to help prevent it from developing, including the following:

  • Stop smoking

  • Maintain an appropriate body weight

  • Increase walking and other weight-bearing exercises

  • Minimize consumption of alcohol and caffeine

  • Maintain adequate calcium intake through supplements and diet. Vitamin D is also necessary because it facilitates calcium absorption.

  • Prevent falls in the elderly to prevent fractures – as an example, install handrails or assistive devices in the bathroom and shower

 

Consult with your provider regarding a medication regimen.