Osteoporosis is commonly associated with advanced age, though there are other conditions that can lead to osteoporosis development. People with this condition may be at greater risk of bone damage. Bones weakened by osteoporosis may increase the risk of hip fractures, poor joint health, and other ailments specific to weakened bones.
What exactly is osteoporosis?
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that negatively affects bone health by impairing bone mineral density. Healthy bones are thick, with a strong, sponge-like texture between the bone’s main walls. People with osteoporosis possess bones that are far less dense. This dramatically weakens the bones’ ability to conduct standard activities, including simple weight-bearing exercises.
Put simply, osteoporosis describes the gradual thinning and increased porosity of bone tissue. This leads to the loss of bone density as time progresses. Calcium and vitamins can help stave off some of the symptoms, initially. More intense prophylactic measures delivered by a medical office may be necessary to successfully prevent osteoporosis, as the condition itself can make it difficult to absorb calcium.
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, having osteoporosis significantly increases your risk of breaking your wrist, hips, and vertebrae. Breaks in these areas can be difficult to manage in the healthiest populations Breaks may be particularly difficult to treat in aging populations with brittle bones.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is currently the most common form of bone disease.
Researchers have estimated that as many as 1 out of 5 American women aged 50 and older suffer from osteoporosis. Without appropriate osteoporosis treatment, about half of those women will experience a fracture of the hip, wrist, or vertebra (the small bones of the spine). These areas can be extremely difficult to heal, making the risk of fractures a substantial one.
Osteoporosis occurs as a result of the body’s failure to form enough new bone material. It may also occur when bone material is reabsorbed by the body in excessive amounts. Both issues may be present in a diagnosis.
Phosphate and calcium are both essential minerals for the formation of normal, healthy bones. In youth and childhood, these minerals are used to produce bones. Without adequate amounts of calcium in your diet or absorbed in your body, both bone production and bone tissue will wane.
As your age advances, your body may regularly reabsorb calcium and phosphate. Bone tissue suffers as a result of the reabsorption process. Brittle, fragile bones are the expected result of excessive reabsorption. Brittle bones have a high risk of fracturing and sustaining damage, even without a dedicated injury.
Although a bone density test can identify the presence of bone disease, bone loss usually occurs gradually, over a period of several years. People may experience a fracture or other bone damage prior to receiving a diagnosis. Commonly, the disease is in an advanced stage before a fracture occurs. At this point, the damage of a single fracture can be severe.
Women are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Drops in estrogen around the age of fifty are linked to osteoporosis development. Men over the age of 70 are similarly at risk of developing the disease, due to a drop in testosterone production.
Other causes of bone disease include:
- Confinement to a bed. Lying in bed for prolonged periods of time can damage the body in numerous ways. Bones may become brittle and weakened if you have experienced a long illness or another inciting incident leading to ongoing bed confinement.
- Chronic rheumatoid arthritis, eating disorders, and chronic kidney disease. Each of these conditions can leach nutrients from the bones and lead to porous surfaces.
- Steroid medication administration (such as prednisone) every day for more than 3 months. Steroid medication is typically used as a last resort rather than a frontline treatment. This is due in part to the negative effects steroids can have on bone health.
- Medication to prevent seizures. Some medications, like anti-seizure medications, bring with them a significant risk of side effects negatively impacting bone health and regeneration.
- Hyperparathyroidism. Brittle bones can also be caused by other health conditions. Treating these conditions may provide relief from the issue.
White women with a strong family history of osteoporosis development are at a far greater risk of developing osteoporosis than the average person.
Other risk factors include:
- Amenorrhea, or the prolonged absence of menstrual periods
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Strong family history of osteoporosis
- Hormone treatments in response to breast or testicular cancer
- Low body weight
- Inadequate dietary calcium
Symptoms of the Condition and Osteoporosis Treatment
Unfortunately, an osteoporotic bone does not have any symptoms in its early stages. Most people do not know that they have an illness until they are in the advanced stages of osteoporosis. There are several key symptoms of late osteoporosis, including:
- Bone pain or tenderness
- Fractures as a result of little to no trauma
- Height loss that can reach 6 inches over time
- Pain in the lower back or neck, as a result of spinal bone fractures
- Kyphosis, or stooped posture (also called a “dowager’s hump)
Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones that has been linked primarily to advanced age. There are other issues that have been identified as osteoporosis risk factors, though they may not be as common. Talk to your doctor to determine what your personal risk of osteoporosis might be.
Prevention is the ideal way to manage osteoporosis development. There are many additional effective treatment options available for people who have already received an osteoporosis diagnosis.
If you are dealing with osteoporosis or dealing with any of the symptoms identified above, make an appointment with our office! As a family practice and internal medicine provider, we offer patient care and education for osteoporosis in Rock Hill, SC, and Charlotte, NC. We are happy to provide services to ease the pain and discomfort associated with advanced osteoporosis, from osteoporosis medications to lifestyle supports designed to improve discomfort.