What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is when the bones become brittle and weak. Like all living tissue, bone breaks down and has to be replaced. If the body can’t replace all of the bone loss, osteoporosis sets in.
While bone loss takes place at all ages, it speeds up in older age. Therefore, physicians recommend building up bone mass during early age so when the speeding process begins, there is sufficient bone to prevent osteoporosis. Though everyone is at risk for osteoporosis, the following increase the risk of developing the disease:
- Being female
- Being of white or Asian descent
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Having a small body frame
Unless caught through a bone density scan, osteoporosis is not usually diagnosed until it has progressed significantly. At this point, symptoms can lead to serious complications. Common symptoms experienced are:
- Back pain — This may be caused by a collapsed or even fractured spinal vertebra.
- Diminished height — When osteoporosis is present in the back, it can lead to a curved spine and subsequent stooped posture and shrinking height.
- Fractured bones — With osteoporosis, bones break more easily, often following a slight fall or after placing weight on a wrist or limb.
Aggressive treatment helps prevent future complications of osteoporosis. Treatments include:
- Medication and Supplements — Hormone replacement therapy, biphosphonates and calcium and vitamin D supplements, all have the goal to strengthen what bone remains and slow the progression of osteoporosis.
- Physical therapy — To maintain bone strength and encourage potential bone growth, regular exercise is prescribed for almost all osteoporosis cases.
- Surgery — If osteoporosis degrades bone to the extent that it causes intense, persistent pain, joint replacement or repair procedures are recommended, many of which can be performed on an outpatient basis.
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