15 May 2018
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a minor fall or sudden impact causes a bone fracture. Osteoporosis is a condition that affects bone strength. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones lose their strength and are more likely to break.
Losing bone is a normal part of the ageing process, but some people lose bone density much faster than normal. This can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures.
Many different factors can also increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, including:
- other medical conditions – such as inflammatory conditions, hormone-related conditions, or malabsorption problems
- a family history of osteoporosis – particularly history of a hip fracture in a parent
- having a low body mass index (BMI)
- heavy drinking and heavy smoking
- lack of exercise
- low calcium
- low sun exposure
What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?
A person is often not aware that he or she has osteoporosis until a fracture occurs. But there are occasionally symptoms of the disorder. They could include:
- back or neck pain
- bone pain or tenderness
- a gradual loss of height and an accompanying stooped posture
- fractures of the spine, wrist, or hip, bone
- receeding gums
- weaker grip strength
- weak and brittle fingernails
To diagnose osteoporosis and assess your risk of fracture and determine your need for treatment, your doctor will most likely order a bone density scan. This exam is used to measure bone mineral density (BMD). It is most commonly performed using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA or DEXA) or bone densitometry. The amount of x-rays absorbed by tissues and bone is measured by the DXA machine and correlates with bone mineral density.
The DXA machine converts raw density information to your T score and Z score. The T score measures the amount of bone you have in comparison to a normal population of younger people and is used to estimate your risk of developing a fracture. Your Z score measures the amount of bone you have in comparison to those in your age group. This number can help indicate whether there is a need for further medical tests.
The following procedures can be performed to determine bone injury or fractures due to osteoporosis:
- Bone x-ray: Bone x-ray produces images of bones within the body, including the hand, wrist, arm, elbow, shoulder, foot, ankle, leg (shin), knee, thigh, hip, pelvis or spine. It aids in the diagnosis of fractured bones, which are sometimes a result of osteoporosis.
- CT scan of the spine: CT scanning of the spine is performed to assess for alignment and fractures. It can be used to subjectively measure bone density and determine whether vertebral fractures are likely to occur. This technique is called quantitative CT (QCT).
- MRI of the spine: Magnetic resonance imaging of the spine is performed to evaluate vertebral fractures for evidence of underlying disease, such as cancer, and to assess the newness of the fracture. New fractures demonstrate a better response to treatment by vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty in certain clinical situations.
If you're at risk of developing osteoporosis, you should take steps to help keep your bones healthy. This may include:
- taking regular exercise
- taking regular physical activity
- healthy eating – including foods rich in calcium and vitamin D
- taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D
- making lifestyle changes – such as giving up smoking and reducing your alcohol consumption
- avoid malnutrition
- stay hydrated
A number of different medications are used to treat osteoporosis. Your doctor will discuss the treatments available and make sure the medicines are right for you. If you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis because you've had a fracture, you should still receive treatment to try to reduce your risk of further fractures. A number of factors are taken into consideration before deciding which medication to use. These include your: age, bone mineral density (measured by your T score) and risk factors for fracture.