Did you know that around 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and there are 34 million more who are at risk for the disease? Did you also know that around one million Americans experience an osteoporosis related fracture each year as well? In fact, about one in two women and up to one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. The expenses associated with these injuries cost more than 14 billion dollars annually. These are definitely surprising and frightening figures for a condition that does not manifest symptoms overtly at all. What exactly is osteoporosis and why is it such a burdensome disease?
Normally, our bones are dense and solid in consistency. Also, in a normal body, the bones undergo a highly regulated and balanced process of making and destroying bone, either to replace the old ones or to make new ones in time of need, such as in growth. Osteoporosis happens when you lose too much bone, make too little bone, or both. There are many causes of this imbalance, one is naturally the natural aging process that we will all go through. With old age, some important hormone levels decline and the result; bones that become less solid and more porous, somewhat appearing like a sponge. This makes your bones become weaker and there is also a decrease in its overall mass. Patients who have osteoporosis can unfortunately experience fractures more easily, either from a minor fall or, in serious cases, even by performing simple everyday actions since the bones are no longer able to handle the stresses of daily life.
Unfortunately, it is hard to establish a clear set of signs and symptoms for this condition. This is because osteoporosis is a silent disease since it is impossible to “feel” your bones becoming weaker. In fact, you might not know you have the condition until you experience a fracture yourself. Bone mineral density diagnostic tests such as dual energy X-ray absorptiometry and quantitative computed tomography, are the best methods to check your bone health. Though these tests sound a bit scary, it is worth checking with your physician so they can determine if you are losing bone density and if treatment is necessary.
Although signs and symptoms are not reliable in identifying the condition, risk factors for osteoporosis are clearly identified. These risk factors include old age, genetic predisposition to the condition in Caucasian and Asian women, low body weight, low hormone levels (such as during menopause), smoking, and regular intake of some specific medications. There has also been increasing evidence that reduced physical activity, genetic factors, and low calcium nutritional state are also possible causative factors of osteoporosis.
The course of this condition depends on the bones involved. Fractures of the lumbar and thoracic spine, which are very common, are also extremely painful. Multiple fractures can also cause a significant loss of height, as well as a possible development of some curvature deformities of the spine. Good news is, effective treatment and prevention brings about favorable results and the condition is actually quite manageable with early detection. It is highly advised to check with your orthopedic doctor if you are at high risk so that early detection and treatment may prevent more bone loss.
The preventive and management modalities for osteoporosis have also been proven very effective. These include regular intake of calcium and vitamin D supplements, as well as regular exercise and other osteoporosis medications which will be specifically prescribed by your physician. Try to reduce or eliminate exposure to cigarette smoke as well, since it is quite detrimental not only to your bones but other vital systems.