Osteoporosis: Symptoms, Treatment, Causes
Are your bones subjected to frequent fractures? Do you feel that your bones are losing their strength and are becoming fragile? So fragile that even minor injuries result in fractures.
Osteoporosis is a condition often characterized by the decrease in bone density which ultimately decreases the strength of bones and results in weak and fragile bones.
Eventually, the weakened and fragile bones become abnormally porous and can easily be compressed just like a sponge. Imagine a bone’s density to be reduced to that of a sponge. That’s quite worrisome, right?
This article covers all the details relevant to osteoporosis that you’re in search of.
Risk Factors and Causes
There are various factors that can trigger the onset of osteoporosis.
If those factors are taken care of then you can save yourself from a lot of hastle.
So, what are the possible risk factors?
Following are the factors that are likely to increase the chances of developing osteoporosis:
- If your gender is female
- If you belong to Asian race
- If you have a small and thin body frame
- If you have a family history of osteoporosis
- If you have had experienced a fracture before
- If you have a habit of cigarette smoking
- If you consume alcohol excessively
- If you have a sedentary lifestyle
- If your diet is low in calcium
- If your daily nutrition or general health is poor
- If there is malabsorption of nutrients from the gastrointestinal tract due to certain bowel diseases
- If being a female, you have low levels of estrogen which mostly happen after menopause or after surgical removal of ovaries
- Chemotherapy can also result in menopause because of its harmful effects on the ovaries and can eventually lead towards osteoporosis
- If you have experienced Amenorrhea which is characterized by the loss of menstrual period in young women and is often associated with low level of estrogen. It mostly happen in women having extremely low body fat and meanwhile, they undergo very vigorous exercise training (e.g. women with anorexia nervosa )
- If you are a male and have low levels of testosterone (hypogonadism)
- If you have chronic inflammation that might be due to chronic inflammatory arthritis or other diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or liver abnormalities
- Immobility resulting from stroke or any other condition that is a hindrance in walking and staying mobile can also be a risk factor
- Hyperthyroidism or hyperparathyroidism affects the levels of calcium in bones which can eventually lead towards osteoporosis
- If your body is lacking enough vitamin D, your body would fail to absorb enough calcium from the diet to save you from osteoporosis
- Intake of certain medication like Heparin, Phenytoin, Phenobarbital or Prednisone can also be a cause of oesteoporosis
- Certain inherited disorders of connective tissues like osteoporosis-pseudoglioma syndrome, osteogenesis imperfecta or homocystinuria can also be the leading cause
What causes osteoporosis?
Normal bone’s strength comes from its composition. Protein, collagen and calcium are the key elements that make our bones strong.
Once bones become brittle, they can easily be subjected to fractures even on bending over, sneezing and coughing.
It can either be in the form of cracking as it happens in hip fracture or it can be in the form of collapsing as happens with spinal vertebrae.
The common areas that are most likely to be subjected to fractures due to osteoporosis include hips, ribs, wrists and spine.
Bone is a living tissue and it is continuously being broken down and then replaced from within. Osteoporosis occurs when there is an imbalance between new bone being formed and old bone being lost.
The inside of the bone is called trabecular bone and it looks like a sponge. The inner sponge is covered with an outer hard shell which is made of dense bone wraps. This outer shell is called cortical bone.
The holes within the spongy part of the bone become larger and increase in number. It eventually makes the inside of bone weak.
The actual purpose of bones is to provide support to the body and its vital organs. Bones are also a storehouse of calcium and other important minerals.
When the body requires calcium, it takes it share from the bones by breaking and rebuilding them. This process, also known as bone remodeling, supplies the body with required calcium and keeps the bones strong at the same time.
Up until about 30 years of age, the amount of bone you normally build is more than the amount of bone you lose. But after 35 years of age, the process of bone building is slower than bone loss. The rate of bone breakdown increases even further after menopause.
The amount of bone mass you attain while you are young depicts the likelihood of osteoporosis development. Your genetics and ethnic group determines how much peak bone mass you are likely to attain.
The higher the peak bone mass is, the more bone you have in store.
Symptoms of osteoporosis
It’s really hard to identify the symptoms during early stages of osteoporosis. Therefore, it can go unnoticed for a long period of time.
But once osteoporosis starts weakening your bones, there are various signs and secondary symptoms that can give an idea.
So, what are the possible signs?
- You may experience pain around the area being affected
- There can be a gradual height loss
- It may affect your posture
- You experience frequent fractures even with minor injuries
- You might face shortness of breath
What is the right time to see a doctor?
- If your menopause has just started
- If you have been taking corticosteroids for a long time
- If you have a family history of osteoporosis
Treatment of Osteoporosis
There are several treatment procedures that are recommended if you have developed osteoporosis. These include the regular intake of different supplements and medication.
Different vitamins and mineral supplements are often recommended. Apart from this, various exercises like weight-bearing and those aiming to develop resistance and balance are all very important.
What medications are used for the treatment of osteoporosis?
Various classes of medication are used to treat osteoporosis. Your doctor can help you finding the best solution. We can’t really say that a particular medication would work best. Everyone’s treatment plan varies depending on their needs.
Hormone and hormone-related therapy
There are different kinds of hormone therapies that can be used to treat osteoporosis:
- Estrogen therapy is used in younger women as well as in women who are in need of treating the symptoms of menopause
- Testosterone is prescribed to men to boost the level of testosterone
- Raloxifene acts similar to estrogen and is meant for the treatment of osteoporosis
- A synthetic hormone, known as Calcitonin-salmon reduces the risk of spine fractures but it is likely to show some serious side effects
Biophosphonates are the antiresorbtive drugs which stop the process of bone re-absorption in the body. Different formulations have different dosing schemes as well as different brands.
Biophosphonates show various health benefits even after you have stopped the intake. They can also show various side effects. Therefore, they must only be taken after consulting with a physician.
A product known as Denosumab is injected every six months to both men and women. It is mostly used as a last resort when all the other treatments have failed. It can also show potentially harmful side effects and therefore, must only be taken after consulting a doctor.
These are the products which are particularly meant for the purpose of building bone. Three products that are currently approved by now include Romososumab-aqqg (Evenity®), Teriparatide (Forteo®) as well as Abaloparatide (Tymlos®). All of these enable the new bone to form and also reduce the process of bone breakdown.
As far as osteoporosis is concerned, there are two types of supplements that are generally used:
- Vitamin-D supplements
- Calcium supplements
The best way to meet the need of calcium and vitamin D is through a proper food plan but, it might not work in some cases. In those cases, we move towards the option of taking supplements as recommended by the physician.
Why is prevention important?
As often said, prevention is better than cure. So, it’s more important to work on preventive measures in order to reduce the risk of osteoporosis in the first place. Investing in preventive measures can be cost-effective as well.
You can simply make changes to your lifestyle by exercising regularly, eating healthy food and reducing the intake of alcohol. Apart from this, you can break the habit of smoking cigarette.
Also, a balanced diet with an adequate amount of vitamin-D and Calcium can also be a great preventive measure. This will gradually increase your bone density and would prevent your bones from becoming weak and fragile.