If your body is losing bone density and strength, resulting in more fragile bones that fracture or break more easily than before, you have osteoporosis. It is a very common condition across the world, especially among women after the menopause, and seniors.
Osteoporosis can have serious consequences for a patient’s quality of life.
Causes of osteoporosis
There are several possible causes, including:
- Hormonal changes (which the menopause triggers).
- Age-related bone loss.
- Lifestyle factors.
- A lack of vitamin D.
- The consumption of too much alcohol.
- Certain medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and hyperthyroidism.
Signs and symptoms
A sign is something both the patient and doctor can observe, detect, or sense, such as a skin rash or a swollen tongue. Symptoms are only experienced and detected by the patient, such as suicidal thoughts or headaches. If you don’t tell people that you have a headache, they won’t know.
Most people experience no signs or symptoms during the early stages of osteoporosis. As it progresses, however, they may experience:
- Loss of height.
- Back pain.
- A stooped position.
- A greater risk/incidence of bones fracture, especially the hip, wrist, and spine.
The doctor may carry out a physical examination and ask the patient about their signs and symptoms.
The doctor will order a bone mineral density (BMD) test, which measures the mineral levels in your bones. The most common test used today is the DXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry), a quick and painless procedure.
The results of the BMD test can determine what the patient’s bone density is and whether they suffer from osteoporosis.
Treatment for osteoporosis
The principal aim of treatment is to halt further bone loss and minimize the risk of fractures.
The following treatment options are available today:
- Medications such as bisphosphonates, calcitonin, and hormone replacement therapy to help boost bone density and strength.
- Boosting calcium intake, which includes following a healthy and well balanced diet.
- Increasing vitamin D intake. According to a peer-reviewed study published in Menopause Review: “Adequate exposure to the sun is vital as it is the main source of vitamin D for the body coming not from the food consumed.”
- Giving up smoking.
- Weight-bearing exercises.
If you have osteoporosis and don’t get treatment, you can develop a range of complications including a serious risk of fractures, chronic pain, and disabilities.
Prevention of osteoporosis
- Exercise regularly
- Follow a diet rich in vitamin D and calcium.
- Do not smoke.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
- For women, HRT (hormone replacement therapy) during menopause can help prevent bone loss.
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation:
“It is estimated that 75 million people in Europe, USA and Japan are affected by osteoporosis. In Asia, osteoporosis is greatly under-diagnosed and under-treated, even in the most high-risk patients who have already fractured. The problem is particularly acute in rural areas.”
“In the most populous countries like China and India, the majority of the population lives in rural areas (60% in China), where hip fractures are often treated conservatively at home instead of by surgical treatment in hospitals.”