Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones that causes bones to become weak and break easily. As the word itself explains, in Osteoporosis, the bone starts getting porous due to low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue. It further leads to bone fragility and an increased risk of fractures even in mild injuries. Unfortunately, this condition mostly affects older women who are the most reported cases of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. One must take preventive measures at a younger age and take steps to build bone mass to prevent bone loss. As age advances, bones become more vulnerable and tend to break easily. These can lead to frequent fractures and injuries and may result in disabilities.
Progression of Osteoporosis:
Osteoporosis is a ‘silent’ disease. Slow progression of bone loss may continue for many years without any symptoms until you break a bone and find out your bones have gone brittle over time. Performing daily tasks independently then often become a challenge and one may need support to even walk a few steps.
As you age, your body may reabsorb calcium and phosphate from your bones instead of keeping these minerals in your bones. This makes your bones weaker. Bone loss can happen for several reasons. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Calcium in the diet is not sufficient: Your body uses and stores calcium in your bones to build healthy bones and teeth. Your body also uses calcium to send messages through your nervous system, help your muscles contract, and regulate your heart’s rhythm. But your body does not make calcium and you have to get all the calcium needed from food, drinks or from supplements. If you don’t get enough calcium each day, your body starts taking the calcium it needs from your bones.
- Postmenopausal woman: As you get older, the formation of new bone is not fast enough to keep up with your body’s needs. The calcium taken from your bones causes you to lose bone density. Bone loss also speeds after menopause and can lead to weak and brittle bones.
Why women are more prone to Osteoporosis?
Women have thinner and smaller bones and less dense bone mass than their male peers, which is why most of the patients of Osteoporosis are women. Moreover, the estrogen hormone that helps in protecting and maintaining the bone density drastically falls post menopause. This further leads to an increased rate of bone loss in women.
Other risk factors responsible for osteoporosis in women are:
- If they have a small & thin body structure, risk is higher.
- Have a family history of osteoporosis.
- Do not get enough calcium and vitamin D – Calcium and vitamin D work together to build and maintain strong bones.
- Do not get enough physical activity – Women of all ages need to perform regular weight-bearing physical activity, such as walking, dancing, or playing tennis, to help build and maintain bone density.
- Have an eating disorder – Eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa (patient thinks he is overweight and doesn’t eat only) and bulimia nervosa (massive eating followed by purging either through vomiting or taking laxatives) can weaken your bones. Anorexia can also lead to amenorrhea.
- Smoking – Women who smoke have a higher probability of developing serious issues like early menopause and early instances of bone loss.
- Existing health troubles like diabetes, thyroid disorders, etc. raise your risk of getting osteoporosis
- Intake of a certain medication to treat long-term health problems
- Drinking too much alcohol – Long-term, heavy drinking can cause many health problems, including bone loss, heart disease and stroke.
Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is best treated before any signs or symptoms develop. Therefore, it is important to understand your risk factors for developing osteoporosis, and thus your likelihood of developing the condition.
Some warning signs that you need to discuss with the orthopedic doctor include:
- Low-Energy Fractures: when you break a bone even if it there was a minimal impact on the body.
- Unexplained Bone or Joint Pain: There are many causes of bone and joint pain, but osteoporosis may contribute to these symptoms. When the bones lack sufficient strength to hold the weight of your body, injury can occur. Unexplained bone or joint pain may raise the consideration of a bone health problem.
- Height Loss or Stooping Compression: fractures of the spine may go undetected or be attributed to a back strain type of injury. When multiple vertebrae are injured, people may lose height or develop a curvature to their spine. The typical appearance of the individual will be of short stature with a humped back.
Prevention of Osteoporosis
It is rightly said that prevention is always better than cure. One of the best ways to prevent weak bones is to work on building strong ones. During childhood and the teen years, it is important that one takes due care to help prevent osteoporosis later. Certain factors are uncontrollable like gender, age, progression, genetics, etc. One must strive to take steps to slow down the natural bone loss with aging and to prevent your bones from becoming weak and brittle.
- Get active – Choose weight-bearing physical activities like running, swimming or dancing to build and strengthen your bones.
- Get enough of Calcium and Vitamin D each day – Take proper nutritious and balanced diet to ensure you get your daily intake of all essential nutrients.
- Don’t smoke – smoking raises your risk for broken bones.
- Drink alcohol, if at all, only in moderation.
- Maintaining proper rest and activity balance – Women are really deficient on this part due to multiple responsibilities both personally and professionally.
- Avoiding falls and taking proper support especially in older people.
- A common test is a central dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). A DXA scan is a special type of x-ray of your bones. This test uses a very low amount of radiation and very helpful in early diagnosis.
- Regular checkups and consultation with an experienced and qualified joint specialist if any predisposing factor exist, like family history or associated illness etc, and try to relieve stress
In spite of all the care if the disease develops then it is always recommended meeting a orthopedic surgeon and following the advice to avoid any serious complications to develop. If there is any compression fracture diagnosed in vertebrae then they can be treated with minimally invasive techniques and for other extensive fractures like that of hip surgical intervention may be the only alternative. Therefore, it is always better to be careful and alert about the symptoms and don’t ignore the signals given by the body and always consult an expert orthopedic doctor to continue with a healthy and active lifestyle.