Most people, particularly women, are familiar with the term osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a bone degenerative disease which commonly affects women after menopause. However, many people are surprised to learn of the fact that men and even young children can suffer from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis literally means porous bones.
With the decrease in bone density, the strength of the bones also decreases and results in fragile bones which can break very easily. People who suffer from this bone degenerative disease have a higher incidence of suffering from sudden fractures. In advanced cases of osteoporosis the bones become so porous that even normal everyday activities like standing, coughing, sitting or even hugging a person can cause the bones to break.
Osteoporosis is mostly a silent disease, in the sense that there are no outwardly symptoms which can warn an individual of the porous nature of their bones. Osteopenia is the precursor of osteoporosis. In this condition the bones slowly begin to lose their density. But the loss of bone density in osteopenia is not as severe as what is seen in osteoporosis. Most women some in their peak years begin to suffer from ostopenia.
The bones are made up of calcium, proteins and collagen which also determine the inherent strength of the bone. Bones that are affected by osteoporosis can break in two ways, either by cracking or by collapsing. Fractures which cause cracking of the bones are normally seen in hip fractures. While compression fracture or bone collapse normally occurs in the spinal vertebrae. Spinal, rib, hip and wrist fractures increases with osteoporosis.
Initially the fracture that happens because of osteoporosis may be very minor. However the subsequent fractures which happen in people with osteoporosis can cause excruciating pain and can often cause long lasting disabilities. Women are four times as likely to suffer from osteoporosis as men. The reason why women are at a higher risk of suffering from this bone degenerative disease is because of reduction in estrogen levels particularly after menopause. The bone density levels in women are maintained by the hormone estrogen.
After menopause because of decrease in estrogen levels a woman can lose almost four percent of bone density every single year for the next ten years. Other than estrogen reduction, which is a major cause osteoporosis in menopausal women, research has not yet been able to determine the other factors which can lead to osteoporosis. There are certain factors which can increase the chances of people suffering from osteoporosis significantly.
While women are more prone to suffer from osteoporosis, people who are of Caucasian or Asian descent, those who eat a low calcium diet, people who have a petitie body build, individuals who smoke, people who have suffered from fractures in their childhood and those who abuse alcohol fall into the high risk category for osteoporosis. Genetics can also determine your chances of suffering from osteoporosis.
People who fall ill easily, those who eat a high calorie diet, individuals who do not exercise and people suffering from celiac sprue are at a higher risk of suffering from osteoporosis. Certain disease conditions like hyperthyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, hyperparathyroidism can also increase the risk of osteoporosis.
The other factors which increase the risk of an individual suffering from osteoporosis are stroke, amenorrhea, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, vitamin D deficiency, low estrogen and low testosterone levels, chemotherapy and certain types of medications like phenytoin and heparin. Juvenile osteoporosis is a type of bone degenerative disease which affects children. Researchers have still not been able to determine the factors which lead to juvenile osteoporosis. Juvenile osteoporosis can further be subdivided into secondary and idiopathic osteoporosis.
Children with certain underlying medical conditions like diabetes, leukemia, Cushing’s syndrome, hyperparathyroidism, cystic fibrosis, anorexia nervosa, kidney disease, osteogenesis imperfecta, and various nutrient mal-absorption syndromes are very likely to suffer from secondary osteoporosis. The type of osteoporosis which sets in just before puberty is known as idiopathic osteoporosis.
For the most part, osteoporosis is asymptomatic. However some tell tale signs of osteoporosis include lower back pain, sudden and inexplicable fractures of the wrist, hip or spine, and a gradual loss of height. Some people having osteoporosis also develop a pronounced stoop. There are different ways of detecting whether a person is suffering from or is likely to suffer from osteoporosis. The dual energy X-ray absorptiometry test is used to measure the Bone Mineral Density also known as the BMD. The strength of the bone is determined through the bone mineral density test.
Today a more advanced way of testing the bone mineral density is through ultrasound. In this particular method of testing the bone mineral density, high intensity ultrasound beams are directed at the region where the testing is to be carried out. The bone density is assessed depending on the amounts of ultrasound waves which are absorbed and scattered.
All postmenopausal women below the age of 65 years who are likely to suffer from osteoporosis and older women or those above the age of sixty five should get themselves tested for osteoporosis. As the saying goes ‘Prevention is better than cure’, one can prevent osteoporosis or at least retard its onset with some preventive measure including making certain lifestyle changes like exercising regularly, taking calcium supplements, taking adequate vitamin D supplements, not smoking or drinking excessively, and eating a diet that in rich in calcium.
To strengthen the bones and improve the body balance, exercises particularly weight bearing exercise like walking should be incorporated into your daily life. People who exercise regularly have lower chances of suffering from osteoporosis. However extreme forms of exercise or exercises which will damage the already weakened bones should be avoided.
Calcium supplements should be taken every day. The recommended daily intake of calcium for pre-menopausal women, post menopausal women taking estrogen and men are 1000mg/day. However, post menopausal women who are not taking estrogen should take about 1200mg/day of calcium.
Incorporate foods which are rich in calcium including milk and milk products along with green leafy vegetables into the daily diet. Certain types of medication like calcitonin, raloxifene, alendronate if taken over an extended period of time can help to increase the bone strength and prevent bone loss. Teriparatide is medication which helps in bone formation.