HEALTH CONDITIONS

A comprehensive list of today's common ailments and health conditions.

Osteoporosis

By Angela Young

Osteoporosis is the name for the condition in which the normal bone density decreases leading to very fragile bones. Bone fragility can cause excessive broken bones, which can be debilitating. Bones are normally very dense made of collagen, protein and calcium. With the development of osteoporosis bones become porous and easily compress in a sponge like way.

When a person is suffering with osteoporosis normally insignificant injuries become serious. Fractures to bones stricken with osteoporosis break easily. The bones most likely to fracture due to osteoporosis are hips and wrists although any bone is susceptible. The damage of the spine is usually due to compression of the bones.

While osteoporosis seems to affect women more often than men, men can also develop osteoporosis without proper diet and exercise.

Osteoporosis Symptoms

Often when osteoporosis is present in a person there are no obvious symptoms even when a person has been suffering with the disease for many years. Most of the time people only discover that they have osteoporosis when they suffer a fracture of one or several of their bones, at that point the symptoms relate to the location of the fractures they suffer.

Fractures of the spine can cause pain that seems to radiate around the back to the sides of the body. If a person suffers several spine fractures they can develop chronic lower back pain or loss of height due to a curved spine.

Minimal trauma fractures are the result of normal activities, for instance a person may fracture their foot by simply walking or going down the stairs. Hip fractures are usually the result of a fall, but can be difficult to heal because of the weak bone structure.

Osteoporosis Causes

Bone density increases as a person ages. Bone density reaches its peak at about age 25 and then maintains its density for approximately ten years after that. Beyond age 35 men and woman begin to lose bone density as part of the natural aging process.

Women are at particular risk in developing osteoporosis because women’s ovaries produce estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that among its many uses helps women maintain bone density. After menopause women no longer naturally produce estrogen leading to a more rapid decrease in bone density. This rapid bone loss is the leading cause of osteoporosis in women.

Osteoporosis Diagnosis

There are two ways that a doctor may diagnose osteoporosis. One way some doctors diagnose osteoporosis is through x-rays of the bones. X-rays can show osteoporosis because they show if a bone appears thinner or lighter than healthy bones. Using x-rays to diagnose osteoporosis is not exact because the results may vary depending on the exposure of the film. X-rays for osteoporosis diagnosis are also troublesome because approximately 30% of the bone is lost prior to the loss being visible on an x-ray.

The most accurate way to diagnose osteoporosis is through a DXA scan. A DXA scan measures bone density at the spine and hip and then compares the results to a the average peak bone density of young adults that are the same sex and race as the patient. The results of this comparison are the T-score. The T-score determines whether or not someone has osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis Treatment

Osteoporosis treatment involves lifestyle change and medications. Lifestyle changes that prevent or treat osteoporosis include quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, eating a health diet that is balanced, exercising paying particular attention to weight bearing exercises and increasing the intake of calcium and vitamin D.

Medications that treat osteoporosis treat the disease in two different ways. Some medications work by slowing the progression of bone loss, while other increase the formation of bones.


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