Osteoporosis, or bone disease is rather common, affecting around ten million US citizens. To raise awareness of this condition, this guide will teach you everything you need to know, including the risk factors for osteoporosis, the common symptoms, complications, and more.
Before beginning, we want to stress the importance of regular medical check-ups. It’s best you visit a healthcare professional frequently, especially if you already have a personal medical history or family history of this condition. Luckily, there are many excellent doctors who treat osteoporosis, and treatment is readily available.
With this in mind, what is osteoporosis? What are the symptoms of osteoporosis? Let’s start.
What is Osteoporosis?
You may be new to this condition, wondering, “what is osteoporosis?”. If so, here is a concise definition approved by experts: Osteoporosis is a common health condition that causes weak and fragile bones, making them easy to break. Osteoporosis is a disease that develops gradually over the years, and patients are often diagnosed when they experience a sudden bone fracture due to a fall or another form of impact.
Three of the most common osteoporosis-related injuries include:
- A broken hip
- Broken vertebrae or spinal bones
- A broken wrist
Patients with osteoporosis can experience breaks in other bones, such as the pelvis or the arm. In some cases, a sneeze or a sudden cough can lead to a partial collapse of spinal bones or a broken rib. Clearly, the complications of osteoporosis are plentiful. Usually, osteoporosis isn’t a painful condition unless the patient has a broken bone. Nevertheless, some patients may have more severe complications of osteoporosis-related to long-term pain when broken spinal bones are involved.
What are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?
What are the symptoms of osteoporosis you should be mindful of? Here are the four most common symptoms of osteoporosis:
- A stooped posture
- Loss of height over time
- Easily breakable bones
- Back pain due to collapsed or fractured vertebra
Out of these symptoms of osteoporosis, the most evident is having easily breakable and brittle bones. However, some older patients develop the standard bent over or stooped posture due to broken spinal bones. Because of this, supporting the body’s weight becomes challenging.
Risk Factors of Osteoporosis
Some of the risk factors of osteoporosis we’ve featured below are more common than others. Therefore, we suggest consulting with a medical professional for an expert diagnosis.
The human bones are always in a state of renewal. This means that old bone breaks down, and new bone is created. The body makes new bones more rapidly during our youth (compared to breaking them down), increasing bone mass. However, as we enter our late twenties, this “renewal” process slows down, and as we age, we lose more bone mass.
Usually, having osteoporosis may depend on how much bone mass you gained while you were younger. However, it’s important to remember that you can partly inherit peak bone mass, which will also vary by ethnic group.
That said, here are some of the most common (and not-so-common) risk factors of osteoporosis to keep in mind.
- Gender (women are more likely to have complications of osteoporosis compared to men)
- Race (Caucasian patients or patients of Asian descent are more likely to have osteoporosis)
- Age (Older individuals are at greater risk)
- Body frame size (Women and men who are more petite can have a higher risk of osteoporosis due to less bone mass)
- Family history (If your parents or siblings suffered from osteoporosis, you might have it as well)
Unfortunately, various other risk factors can increase your chances of osteoporosis. These include hormone levels, dietary factors, medications, medical conditions, and lifestyle choices. Here is a quick run-down of each of these risk factors.
Fluctuating Hormone Levels
People with fluctuating hormone levels are at greater risk of osteoporosis. For example, lowered sex hormone levels lead to weaker bones (fall of estrogen levels during menopause, putting women in this category at risk). Thyroid problems can also cause this disease because too much of this hormone can cause bone loss.
Dietary Factors and Osteoporosis
If your calcium intake is low, you can have diminished bone density, and you may have a boosted risk of fractures. Moreover, patients with eating disorders who are underweight have more fragile bones.
Medications and Steroids
Patients on certain medications such as cortisone and prednisone are at greater risk because these drugs interfere with bone renewal. Osteoporosis is also linked with cancer, gastric reflux, seizures, and transplant rejection medications.
Other Medical Conditions
You may be at greater risk if you have cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple myeloma, liver or kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or Celiac disease.
Harmful Lifestyle Choices
If you live a sedentary life with minimal to no exercise, you can have a greater risk of this condition. Luckily, by working out regularly and eating a well-balanced diet, you can reduce your chances. Also, patients who consume alcohol and tobacco regularly are at risk.
Namely, according to animal and human studies, heavy or chronic alcohol consumption is linked to diminished bone health and a boosted risk of this condition. Heavy alcohol use can decrease bone density and make bones fragile.
How Can You Treat Osteoporosis?
If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, remember that it’s not the world’s end. Luckily, there are several ways to treat this condition. For instance, your treatment options may include osteoporosis medications, exercise, and supplementation with vitamins and minerals. Often, your medical expert will suggest supplementation and exercise for osteoporosis prevention. In addition, balance, resistance, and weight-bearing exercises are important for preventing this condition.
When it comes to osteoporosis medications, you have a few options. To determine the right choice for you, you will have to consult your healthcare provider. At the end of the day, the best treatment method is the one customized to your needs.
That said, you may require hormone and hormone-related therapy. You may need testosterone to increase bone density if you are a man. Some patients may require calcitonin-salmon, a synthetic hormone that reduces the risk of spine fractures. However, this hormone is not necessarily effective for other breaks such as hip fractures. Another option is Bisphosphonates or antiresorptive drugs. These drugs will help stop the reabsorption of bone tissue. Alternatively, your doctor may recommend Biologics or Anabolic agents.
Keep in mind that not all patients are eligible for hormonal treatment. Consult with your doctor.
Supplements are another way to treat osteoporosis. Your healthcare provider may recommend calcium or vitamin D supplements for increasing bone strength. However, always stick to the daily recommended amounts.
Finally, you may also need to get adjusted to living with osteoporosis. For example, you will need to ensure that you prevent falls inside and outside your home. For instance, always keep the floors clutter-free and only use non-skid items. Also, make sure to clean up spills immediately. When outside, wear proper footwear.
Overall, there is no ultimate way to prevent falls from happening. However, you can be more careful and aware of your surroundings. Also, we advise you to take things slowly.
You’ll also want to visit a reliable healthcare specialist for regular medical check-ups.