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Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis - What it is

Osteoporosis is a common condition that results in low bone mass. This means that bones become abnormally weak and prone to fractures. Fractures may occur after a minor fall, or even without any trauma. 

Fractures, or breaking a bone, is a serious complication of osteoporosis. Fractures related to osteoporosis are most likely to occur in the hip, spine or wrist, but other bones may also be affected. Fractures are serious because they lead to pain and limited movement. 20% of elderly people who break a hip die within one year.  

Thankfully, there are ways to prevent osteoporosis. There are also ways to treat osteoporosis after, or even before sustaining a fracture.

Osteoporosis - Symptoms

Osteoporosis alone does not cause symptoms; in fact, most people with osteoporosis feel well until they actually sustain a fracture.

Symptoms may arise from these fractures. For example, fractures of the spine may cause back pain, a loss in height, or a hunched posture. 

Osteoporosis - How to prevent?

Thankfully, there are several ways to prevent osteoporosis:
  • Get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet 
    It is recommended that you take about 1000 – 1200mg of calcium and 800 international units of vitamin D each day. These includes calcium and vitamin D that are naturally present in food and drinks, and also those in supplements.   
  • Exercise
    Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, or climbing stairs help to prevent osteoporosis. Also, exercise in general helps to strengthen muscles and avoid falls. 
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid heavy alcohol intake

Osteoporosis - Causes and Risk Factors

Most of the time, osteoporosis occurs in women after menopause. Estrogen, otherwise known as female hormone, normally helps to maintain bone mass. After menopause, estrogen levels in the body fall.

Some other medical problems can also cause osteoporosis, such as:
  • Long-standing diseases of the digestive tract, liver, kidneys, lungs, nervous system, immune system and other organs
  • Certain hormonal disorders
  • Cancers
  • Malnutrition 
In addition, a number of medications may contribute to osteoporosis and low bone mass. These include steroids and some medications for epilepsy, among several others.

Some risk factors for osteoporosis cannot be changed. These include female gender, older age, having a thin build and a family history of osteoporosis. 

Some risk factors for osteoporosis can be altered by changing your lifestyle. These risk factors include:
  • A diet low in calcium and vitamin D
  • Excessive dieting
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Smoking

Osteoporosis - Diagnosis

Bone mineral density (BMD) testing is done to examine bone density. Osteoporosis is diagnosed when the bone density is abnormally low. BMD testing is most commonly done using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, otherwise known as a DXA scan. This is a special x-ray taken of the hips and spine. 

The results of BMD testing can be used to diagnose osteoporosis, and to guide decisions about starting or adjusting treatment for osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis - Treatments

​There are medications available to treat osteoporosis and reduce the risk of fractures. These medications are available in several forms. Osteoporosis medications may be taken in tablet form, and also come in the form of injections given once a year, twice a year, or daily. Your doctor will take into consideration your osteoporosis history and your overall health before recommending medications that are most suitable for you.

Osteoporosis - Preparing for surgery

Osteoporosis - Post-surgery care

Osteoporosis - Other Information