Osteoporosis

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease that
causes weak, thinning bones. This puts the bones at greater risk of breaking. The bones
most often affected are the hips, spine, and wrists.

What causes osteoporosis?

Researchers don’t know the exact
cause for osteoporosis. But a number of factors contribute to the disease.

Who is at risk for osteoporosis?

Women are 4 times more likely to
get osteoporosis than men. Here are other things that may put you at risk for osteoporosis:

  • Older age. Bones become less dense and weaker with
    age.
  • Race. White and Asian women are
    most at risk. But all races may get the disease.
  • Body weight. People who weigh less
    and have less muscle are more at risk for this condition.
  • Lifestyle factors. Lack
    of physical activity, caffeine, heavy alcohol use, smoking, dietary calcium, and
    vitamin D deficiency may all increase your risk.
  • Certain medicines. Some medicines
    may increase your risk.
  • Family history. Having a family
    history of bone disease may increase your risk.

Having low bone mass (osteopenia)
also puts you at a greater risk for osteoporosis.

Low estrogen is one of the main causes of bone loss in women during and after menopause. Women may lose up to 20% of their bone mass in the 5 to 7 years after menopause.

What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

People with osteoporosis may not
have any symptoms. Some may have pain in their bones and muscles, particularly in their
back. Sometimes a collapsed vertebra may cause severe pain, decrease in height, or
spinal deformity.

The symptoms of osteoporosis may
look like other bone disorders or health problems. Always talk with your healthcare
provider for a diagnosis.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will
review your personal and family health history and do a physical exam. Other tests
include:

  • Bone density test (bone densitometry). This test measures
    the mass of bone and its volume to find the risk of getting osteoporosis.
  • Blood tests. These tests measure
    calcium and potassium levels.
  • FRAX score. This is a score given to
    estimate the risk of a fracture within 10 years. The score uses the results of a bone
    density test as well as other things.
  • X-rays. This test uses energy beams
    to make images of tissues, bones, and organs on film.

Women are encouraged to:

  • Review lifestyle practices with their
    healthcare provider regularly.
  • Have their personal risk for falls checked at least once a year after menopause.
  • Have their height and weight checked yearly.
  • Get checked for the development of a rounded humped in the spine and back pain (kyphosis).