Bone loss

Other names: Osteoporosis

DEFINITION

Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle, increasing the risk of fractures, especially in the hip, wrist, or spine. It occurs when new bone formation does not keep up with old bone removal. Factors like age, race, and hormonal imbalances contribute to its development.

SYMPTOMS

Early stages may be asymptomatic, but signs can include back pain, height loss, stooped posture, and easy fractures. Consider seeing a doctor if you have risk factors like early menopause, prolonged corticosteroid use, or family history of hip fractures.

CAUSES

Bone mass peaks in early adulthood and declines with age. Factors like genetics, hormone levels (especially estrogen), dietary deficiencies (like low calcium intake), medication use (such as corticosteroids), and lifestyle choices (sedentary living, excessive alcohol/tobacco use) can increase the risk of osteoporosis.

RISK FACTORS

Unchangeable risks include sex (women are more affected), age (older individuals at higher risk), race (whites and Asians at greater risk), family history of osteoporosis or fractures, and body frame size. Hormonal imbalances and dietary factors also play a role.

COMPLICATIONS

The most serious complication is bone fractures, particularly in the hip or spine. Hip fractures can lead to disability or death in older adults. Spinal fractures can cause back pain, height loss, and a hunched posture.

PREPARING FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT

Bone density testing is recommended for women by age 65 and for men by age 70 if at risk. Prepare for your appointment by noting symptoms, personal information, medications/supplements taken, and questions for your doctor about screening, tests, treatments, lifestyle changes, and preventive measures.

TESTS AND DIAGNOSIS

Bone density testing using low-level X-rays helps determine mineral proportions in bones. This painless test usually focuses on the hip, wrist, and spine.

TREATMENTS AND DRUGS

Treatment aims to reduce fracture risk based on bone density tests. Bisphosphonates are commonly prescribed medications. Hormone-related therapy or other medications may be considered based on individual needs.

LIFESTYLE AND HOME REMEDIES

Maintaining adequate calcium and vitamin D intake through diet or supplements is crucial for bone health. Regular weight-bearing exercises can help strengthen bones and slow down bone loss.


QUESTIONS

  1. What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle, increasing the risk of fractures.

  1. What are common symptoms of osteoporosis?

Symptoms include back pain, height loss, stooped posture, and easy fractures.

  1. Who is at highest risk for osteoporosis?

White and Asian women, especially postmenopausal women, are at highest risk.

  1. How does age affect the development of osteoporosis?

As people age, bone mass is lost faster than it's created, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

  1. What lifestyle choices can increase the risk of osteoporosis?

Sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption, and tobacco use can increase the risk of osteoporosis.

  1. What are some complications of osteoporosis?

The most serious complication is bone fractures in the hip or spine that can lead to disability or death in older adults.

  1. How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

Bone density testing using low-level X-rays helps diagnose osteoporosis by determining mineral proportions in bones.

  1. What are common treatments for osteoporosis?

Common treatments include bisphosphonates like alendronate (Fosamax) and hormone-related therapy like estrogen replacement.

  1. How can calcium intake be optimized for bone health?

Adequate calcium intake through diet or supplements is essential for bone health; sources include dairy products and fortified foods.

  1. What role does exercise play in preventing osteoporosis?

Regular weight-bearing exercises help strengthen bones and slow down bone loss associated with osteoporosis.