Osteoporosis is a condition of bone that is characterized by a decrease in the density and strength of the bone resulting in fragile bones. This condition occurs when:
Osteoporosis literally means porous bone (a bone that is compressible, like a sponge). This disorder weakens the skeleton and results in frequent bone fractures.
The body maintains bone density and its structure in a certain way. The bone tissue is renewed regularly. New bone replaces the old and damaged bone and maintains the integrity of the bone tissue.
Bone density is at its peak when a person is in his late 20s. Bone starts to become weak after the age of 35. With age, bone breaks down faster than it builds. This disturbs the balance of the bone tissue resulting in abnormal conditions like osteoporosis.
Bone is made up of three major components that make them flexible and strong:
When viewed under a microscope, a healthy bone looks like a honeycomb. If you have osteoporosis, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb increase in size and number. Osteoporotic bones have less density or mass than a healthy bone without osteoporosis.
Less dense bones are weak and are more likely to break. The fracture in the bone can be in the form of:
Osteoporosis can cause fractures in almost any skeletal bone such as in the arm or pelvis but the most common injuries are:
Osteoporosis develops slowly over several years without showing any symptoms and is only diagnosed after a minor fall or sudden bone fracture. It is not usually painful until a fracture occurs, but spinal fractures cause a long-term (chronic) pain.
It is estimated that 50 percent of women and 25 percent of men break a bone due to osteoporosis in their lifetime. This condition becomes more common and even severe with age.
Osteoporosis is a serious problem and the most serious complication is a bone fracture. Older patients have severe complications than the younger ones.
Hip, spine and wrist are the common bones which are affected by the disease. And these are important bones of one’s body. Functioning with these bones being fractured is a tough task. Fracture is accompanied with permanent pain.
Osteoporosis can also cause some patients to lose height. It is because when osteoporosis affects vertebrae (the bones of the spine), it becomes difficult for the patient to support the weight of the body and develop a stooped or hunched posture.
The main cause of osteoporosis is lack of calcium and vitamin D in the body that makes the bone weak and brittle.
Other causes may include low estrogen in women, low testosterone in men, sedentary lifestyle and thyroid conditions. Read more about causes of osteoporosis.
To diagnose the osteoporosis, the doctor suggests a bone density scan. It is done to determine the proportion of mineral in bone. It is done by a machine in a procedure called bone densitometry. This test is usually painless and it checks only a few bones such as hip, wrist and spine.
Treatment of osteoporosis includes the treatment of fractures and their prevention by strengthening the bones with medications.
Strontium ranelate, Bisphosphonates and selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) are some of the medications used to treat the osteoporosis. Read more about treatment of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis can be prevented in the following ways:
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