Osteoporosis is one of the common bone problems, which causes 8.9 million fractures every year worldwide. It is characterized by thinning and weakening of the bone to a point that they become prone to fracture and breakage. According to a research, published in the Journal Geriatric Nursing, Osteoporosis is a condition that can take even a lifetime to develop and manifest. It occurs as a result of an imbalance in the bone formation and the bone remodeling.
This disease is affecting an increasing number of elderly people, including both men and women, but it is more common in women. Patients with osteoporosis are at higher risk of breaking the bones, such as hip, wrist and spine, even with a minimum impact injury. However, other bones may also get damaged.
Process of Bone Loss:
Our bone is a living thing, which gets broken down and replaced with the new bone throughout the life. But, as the age increases, it is broken more than what is replaced. As a result, the bone becomes thin and gets reduced in strength.
In case of women, the amount of bone loss increases after menopause for few years, then it slows down and continues with the same pace. In case of men, bone loss occurs slowly. But after the age of 60 or 65 years, both men and women lose bone at the same rate. Osteoporosis is often asymptomatic because bone loss occurs without producing any symptom. The patient comes to know about it when they break a bone caused by a sudden fall, strain, or a bump.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
As the osteoporosis is asymptomatic in the initial stage, most of the patients are not aware that they have the problem until they experience a fracture. As mentioned above, both men and women with osteoporosis are more likely to break bones in the wrist, hip, and spine. But, you should always remember that any fracture after the age of 50, could indicate that your bone is fragile and weak.
Sometimes, the people may not know that they already have a spine fracture. You can make out by checking your height. The height loss of 1 or more inches is one of the important warning signs of a spine fracture. Apart from this, you may also have the symptoms like back pain, curved spine, tiring back, or stooped posture.
Warning: The people, who experience a fracture after the age of 50, are at the greater risk of another fracture. So, it is important to discuss with your doctor to take possible precautions, and also to check for osteoporosis.
Risk Factors of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is more common in women than men. Women lose bone faster than the men do. It is because of the hormonal changes that occur after the menopause.
The risk of osteoporosis increases with age. The older you are, the bone becomes thinner, brittle, and fragile.
According to the experts, osteoporosis is a genetic disorder, so it runs in the families. So, you have to be more careful, if any of your family members have the problem.
If you are above the age of 50 and experienced a fracture already, then you are in the higher risk of another fracture.
Deficiency of calcium and vitamin D increases the chance of osteoporosis. Vitamin D helps your body to absorb the calcium. If you are not getting sufficient amounts of vitamin D either from your diet or other sources like supplements or sunlight, then you are more likely to have the problem. In addition, you should include protein, other vitamins, and minerals to your diet to get the optimum health of the bone.
Smoking makes your body absorb less amount of calcium from the diets. It decreases the blood supply to the bone and muscles, causing various muscle and bone problems like thinning of the bone density, fragile bones, etc. It also reduces the level of estrogen hormone in women.
Lack of Exercise:
Physical inactivity is one of the common factors, which can trigger osteoporosis. A study found that an exercise as simple as hopping could help strengthen bones and prevent damage due to Osteoporosis.
Using some drugs for a long period can increase the risk of osteoporosis. For example, some of them are:
- Glucocorticoids (used in arthritis and asthma)
- Anti-seizure drugs
- Drugs used in cancer
- Drugs used in endometriosis
- Drugs used for thyroid problem
Diagnostic Tests for Osteoporosis:
Your health care provider will take careful medical history to make sure whether you have the disease, or are at the risk of the disease. An X-ray is recommended for the patients if any vertebral fracture is suspected. He/she will ask you about your lifestyle and other health issues if you have any because some underlying diseases can also cause osteoporosis. The most common diseases which can trigger the bone loss or bone thinning are coeliac disease and hyperparathyroidism. He will also take your family history because osteoporosis is a genetic disease. Your doctor will also ask you to for blood tests to measure the level of calcium, vitamin, thyroid, testosterone, and renal function.
Osteoporosis is diagnosed by a particular test called ‘bone density test’. This test helps measure how dense or strong your bones are. It also allows your doctor to analyze if you are in the risk of having a fracture. For the test, you don’t have to take any preparation. It is a safe, and painless test. The most common and widely used bone density test is known as DXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry), which can help evaluate whether you have normal bone density, osteoporosis or osteopenia (low bone mass).
Treatment Options for Osteoporosis:
Even though there is no complete cure for osteoporosis, the damage caused by osteoporosis can be slowed down. Always look for a doctor who specializes in osteoporosis. Specialists like rheumatologists, endocrinologists, internists, and geriatricians also can provide good treatment and care for osteoporosis.
The prime reason of providing the treatment is to prevent the fractures. In addition, it is equally important to maintain a nutritious, balanced diet, which is rich in enough vitamin, protein, and calcium. A regular exercise to strengthen the muscles and bones is also an unavoidable regimen to manage osteoporosis.
There are various medications available for the condition, approved by the FDA. You should always talk to your doctor, before using any medication for the same, because they exhibit some side effects. Your doctor alone can advise a suitable medicine for you. Some of the available medications are listed below:
- Bisphosphonates: Alendronate, risedronate, ibandronate, and zoledronic acid.
- Zoledronic acid
Apart from the medication, your doctor will also advise you to maintain a balanced diet, so that your body gets enough calcium, vitamin, and minerals.
The exercise which strengthens the bones and muscles are also advised. You can also take professional help from a physiotherapist.
The above-mentioned medications are prescribed according to the age and tolerability of the patients, and also the intensity of the condition. Your doctor will also decide the dose as per the requirement. So, always take the medication according to your doctor’s instruction to avoid an unwanted complication.
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Dr. Kaleem Mohammed graduated as a Bachelor of Physiotherapy in 2014 from Deccan College of Physiotherapy, affiliated to Dr. N.T.R. University of Health Sciences, Vijayawada, India. Dr. Kaleem is an expert at handling physiotherapy needs of patients suffering from orthopedic and spinal conditions and post-surgery rehabilitation. Dr. Kaleem is associated with HealthClues since its inception where he facilitates diagnosis and advanced consultation with senior doctors. He is also a medical researcher and prolific writer who loves sharing insightful commentaries and useful tips to educate the patient community about fitness, treatment options, and post-treatment recovery.