Osteoporosis

UPDATED ON: 15 Dec 2023, 19:51 PM
Medically Reviewed by

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that silently weakens your bones, making you more prone to broken bones. Your bones are living tissues that replenish and break down when new bones do not grow to replace lost bone, this is when you are affected by osteoporosis. They make your bones weak and brittle, so much so that it only takes bending or coughing to break them.

Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis

As per a 2017 report by the European Journal of Rheumatology, more than 200 million people are suffering from osteoporosis. 1 in every 3 women and 1 in every 5 men over the age of 50 suffer from the condition, finds the study.

While the disease can affect you anywhere the most commonly affected areas include the hips, wrists, or spine. It can affect anybody, but it is more common in older men, and women going through menopause are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis. It is majorly influenced by hormonal changes, genetic factors, and lifestyle choices. Other factors like reduced estrogen levels in postmenopausal women can also contribute to bone loss. It is crucial to make early detection because osteoporosis is often asymptomatic until fractures occur.

Causes of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis can be caused by a variety of factors, and it often results from a combination of genetic, hormonal, and lifestyle influences. Here are the causes of osteoporosis:

  • Age: As you age, bone loss occurs more rapidly and bone regrowth diminishes. So as you age, your bones become weaker and you are at a higher risk of osteoporosis.
  • Hormonal changes: A decline in estrogen levels in women and a decrease in testosterone levels can also increase the risk of bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis.
  • Genetics: A family history of osteoporosis can lead to the risk of this bone disease.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: Inadequate consumption of calcium, vitamin D, and other essential minerals required for bone health, can lead to the development of osteoporosis.
  • Lack of physical activity: Not exercising at all or living a sedentary Lifestyle can also contribute to bone loss, thus increasing or risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Certain medical conditions: Problems like rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism, gastrointestinal disorders, celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease can also lead to osteoporosis.
  • Alcohol consumption: People who drink a lot of alcohol could be at risk of developing this bone disease.
  • Smoking: Tobacco smoke has also been linked to bone loss, which can eventually lead to loss of bone density and increased risk of fractures.
  • Low body weight: Being underweight or having a low BMI can be a risk factor for osteoporosis.

Key Facts About Osteoporosis

Major Symptoms
  • Changes in natural posture
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lower back pain
  • Loss of height
Necessary Health Tests
  • Bone Density Testing (DXA Scan)
  • FRAX (Fracture Risk Assessment Tool)
  • Blood Tests
  • Bone Turnover Markers
  • X-rays
  • Quantitative Computed Tomography (QCT)
  • Peripheral DXA (pDXA)
Treatment
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat healthy food
  • Take medication
  • Take nutrition supplements
  • Regular bone density tests
  • Hormone replacement therapy

Symptoms of Osteoporosis

Did you know osteoporosis is often referred to as a “silent disease?” This is because it doesn’t show noticeable symptoms until a fracture occurs. However, there are some symptoms of osteoporosis that you must not ignore:

  • Changes in natural posture
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lower back pain
  • Loss of height

Diagnosis of Osteoporosis

The diagnosis of osteoporosis involves a combination of clinical assessments, medical history, and diagnostic tests to evaluate bone health and density.

  • Medical history: The doctor will assess your risk factors, including your family history, lifestyle factors, or any fractures.
  • Physical examination: The doctor may assess your height, posture, and signs of vertebral fractures.
  • Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA): The most commonly used and widely accepted method, this involves a low-dose X-ray and is typically performed on the hip and spine.
  • Quantitative Computed Tomography (QCT): It is a more advanced imaging technique that helps assess bone density, particularly in the spine that provides a three-dimensional image of bone density.
  • Laboratory tests: Your medical provider might ask for some blood tests to assess calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D levels to check for some nutritional deficiencies.

Treatment of Osteoporosis

1. Lifestyle modifications

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you must make some changes in your lifestyle necessary to keep your bones healthy. You must include all nutrients required for bone health, exercise regularly, quit smoking, and limit alcohol consumption.

2. Medication

Depending on the cause of the disease, your doctor will ask you to include medications like bisphosphonates, selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), teriparatide, denosumab, calcitonin, and more.

3. Nutrition supplements

A lack of calcium and vitamin D in your diet can trigger bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis. It is important to include these dietary supplements in your diet to keep your bones healthy.

4. Regular monitoring

It is crucial to do bone density testing regularly to assess the effectiveness of treatment.

5. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

In some cases, especially in postmenopausal women, hormone replacement therapy may be considered. However, the risks and benefits need to be carefully weighed, and it is not recommended for long-term use.

Related FAQs

Can you live alright with osteoporosis?

In general, life is normal with osteoporosis but you might have to be more careful about falls and fractures.

Can osteoporosis be cured?

Osteoporosis cannot be cured but you can manage it with medicines and lifestyle changes. Your doctor will recommend the proper treatment depending on your age, gender, and medical history.

Can exercise prevent osteoporosis?

In addition to lowering the risk of fractures from osteoporosis, exercise can also delay the rate of bone loss. For those who wish to avoid or have osteoporosis, exercise also has additional advantages.

Is it okay to run if you have osteoporosis?

Running or jogging can be dangerous for those who have osteoporosis. Running is a high-impact, weight-bearing sport that strengthens the bones, but people with osteoporosis may break a bone if they aren't careful.

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