Health

What is Osteoporosis?

The word, ‘Osteoporosis’ means ‘porous or permeable. It is a health condition that weakens the bones, making them so brittle that even mild stresses, such as coughing or bending over can cause fractures, mostly in the areas of the wrist, spine, and hip. People suffering from Osteoporosis have less bone mass and strength.

The disease progresses silently, without any pain or other symptoms, and is usually not discovered until the brittle bones cause fractures. Keep reading, to find out the causes, symptoms, and treatment methods of Osteoporosis.

Causes of Osteoporosis

progression of Osteoporosis in a man with age

There are many risk factors for developing osteoporosis, such as,

  1. Intake of Steroids – Steroids are used by many people, to treat their inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis. They affect bone production, by increasing calcium loss through the kidneys and decreasing the amount of absorbed calcium from the gut. If you need steroids for more than three months, your doctor would probably also suggest some Vitamin D and calcium tablets, to prevent Osteoporosis.
  2. Deficiency of Estrogen – If your one or both ovaries are removed, because of a Hysterectomy or have early menopause (before the age of 45), you’re more likely to develop Osteoporosis. This is because it dramatically decreases the production of Estrogen in your body and eventually speeds up the process of bone loss. Hysterectomy is quite rare, but it is linked with Osteoporosis.
  3. Lack of Exercise – Exercise helps improve your bone development and lack of exercise will put you more at risk of losing calcium, and thus developing Osteoporosis. Bone and muscle health are linked and exercise will also help develop your muscle strength, which will reduce your risk of falling victim to Osteoporosis. However, women who perform strenuous exercises are also at risk, because these hard-core movements will stop their periods, and thus decrease their estrogen levels.
  4. Poor Diet – If you don’t take fish, white beans, soybeans, and other food that are rich in calcium and vitamin D, or you’re underweight, you’re more likely to give in to Osteoporosis.
  5. Heavy Smoking – Smoking reduces the body’s ability to absorb calcium and is directly toxic to bones. It decreases testosterone activity in men, weakening their bones, and lowers the estrogen level in women, which may cause early menopause.
  6. Heavy Drinking – Heavy alcohol weakens the mechanical properties of bones, and decreases their density. Resultantly, the body becomes unable to make bone and there’s an increased risk of a bone fracture by falling.
  7. Family History – One of the most common causes of Osteoporosis is family history because many inherited factors affect bone development. If your close relative suffered from an Osteoporosis fracture, then you’re also at greater risk of bone fracture. Other factors that may affect the risk include,
  • Low body weight
  • Ethnicity
  • Medical conditions, such as coeliac disease (and sometimes its treatment), affect the absorption of food.
  • Previous fractures

Symptoms of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease that doesn’t show its symptoms for several years. Most people don’t even know they’ve osteoporosis until they suffer from a bone fracture. However, these are some of the symptoms that’ll help you recognize the disease.

  1. Receding Gums – Receding gums cause bone loss in the jaw, and are quite common but also one of the main symptoms of Osteoporosis. There is a coherent relation between bone loss in the jaw, receding gums, and decreased bone density in many other signal areas, such as lumbar spine. You can discuss the health condition of your jaw with the doctor, to have a better insight.
  2. Decreased Strength and Grip – According to medicinal research, low grip strength is strongly correlated with Low Bone Mineral Densitometry (BMD), which increases the risk of suffering from bone fractures that usually stem from a fall. These falls mainly occur because patients don’t have enough strength to maintain their balance. Therefore, lower hand-grip strength is the main indicator of bone deterioration and eventually Osteoporosis.

One example of lower hand-grip strength is when your grandmother can’t open a can or jar that needs a little bit of extra effort, and even if she does, she might damage her hand in the process. To save your loved ones from getting hurt, take a look at some tips for helping seniors open cans and jars.

  1. Brittle Fingernails – Brittle and weak nails are normally a sign of nutritional deficiency and hormonal changes. Medicinal research proved the strong correlation between the reliability of fingernails and deteriorating bone health. Although it’s not directly related to Osteoporosis, you can still act responsibly and take care of your nails.
  2. Height Loss – Muscle imbalances cause height loss over time that leads to slouching and poor posture. However, height loss can also be linked with a damaged spine, indicating vertebral fractures.
  3. Fracture from a Standing Height – The most prominent symptom of Osteoporosis is when bones break easily. One exhibit of this symptom is when an individual suffers a fracture from an incident that could’ve resulted in a bruise or bump. These low-impact incidents include falling off a toilet, out of bed, out of a wheelchair, or from a standing height or less.

Treatment of Osteoporosis

If you’re suffering from Osteoporosis, with a low-impact fracture, the doctor will treat that fracture first, and then work on reducing the risk of future fractures.

Unless you suffered from a vertebral compression fracture, the doctor will use a cast on the affected area and let it heal. In some cases, the fracture might need guidance and diagnosis by a specialist, before putting on the cast. This may be done in A&E (Accident and Emergency) or you may be admitted to the hospital if the fracture needs surgical fixing. For time being, they’ll prescribe some pain-relief medications such as,

  • Painkillers, such as codeine, paracetamol, and occasionally morphine
  • NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as naproxen or ibuprofen.

Patients below the age of 75 will need a bone density scan before the start of the treatment, which is not necessary for the elderly. After starting the treatment, doctors will monitor your bone density in one of the following ways,

  • Bone density scans, mostly of hips and/or spine, every 2-5 years, depending on individual conditions/circumstances
  • Urine and blood test to monitor the renewal of bone – these aren’t so common and widely available as bone density scans

Important Points to Remember

  1. The bone density of patients with Osteoporosis starts improving after 6-12 months. Although to further reduce the fracture risk, patients may need to undergo long-term treatment. The process of bone renewal is slow, and sometimes you won’t even feel the progress. Therefore, it’s necessary to continue the treatment, as the doctor advises.
  2. Sometimes, long-term treatments have many side effects. Therefore, your doctor may suggest a break from a treatment of 3 to 5 years. You must not worry because these holidays are truly in your favor, and the benefits of these treatment methods are long-lasting, and won’t vanish during the off-days.

Your treatment will differ according to the circumstances. Discuss thoroughly with your doctor. The most common types of treatment include,

  • Bisphosphonates (ibandrinate etidronate, alendronate, zoledronate)
  • Calcium and vitamin
  • Raloxifene
  • Teriparatide and parathyroid hormone
  • Denosumab
  • Calcitonin
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) revolves around your regular breast scans (mammograms) and blood pressure checks.
  • Strontium ranelate

Your doctor can also suggest you make changes to everyday items, and replace them with the ones that are sensitive for patients with Osteoporosis. For example, many doctors might recommend buying a specific type of mattress and bed sheets. To ease up your purchasing process, take a look at some of the best mattresses for different types of pains.

Defeat Osteoporosis – with Timely Treatment!

Osteoporosis is not fatal. It is a common health condition among the elderly. However, with advancements in medicinal technology, the treatment methods of Osteoporosis have also advanced, which can help strengthen your bones. Although it cannot be completely reversed, you can reduce the risk of future fractures, with proper medication and some healthy lifestyle adjustments. Therefore, we advise you to not give up on the process and beat the disease with timely treatment!

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