Osteoporosis Is Silent But Serious

Although symptoms of early osteoporosis may be absent, continuing bone loss can be detrimental to your health and increase the risk of bone fractures.

Osteoporosis, meaning “porous bone,” occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or a combination of both. With the disease, bones weaken and may easily break as the result of a fall or, in serious cases, from scenarios as simple as sneezing or a slight bump. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 54 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass. Studies estimate that one in two women and as many as one in four men aged 50 and older will break a bone as a result of osteoporosis. Each year, fractures due to osteoporosis are responsible for $19 billion in related costs. And experts estimate that by 2025, osteoporosis will be responsible for about three million fractures and $25.3 billion in costs annually.

Although osteoporosis affects both men and women of all races, white and Asian women, particularly those who have experienced menopause, are at greatest risk. Additional risk factors include female gender, advancing age, a family history of osteoporosis, and a small body frame. Likewise, some medications can increase the risk of bone deterioration. It’s important to discuss with your provider the benefits and risks of prescribed medications, as well as their potential for increasing the risk of bone loss.

When osteoporosis progresses, it typically manifests in the form of back pain, a loss of height due to vertebral fracture or collapse, or a stooped posture. There is no cure for osteoporosis, but appropriate treatment can help strengthen and protect bones. Left untreated, osteoporosis is likely to negatively influence the ability to perform daily activities, significantly increase the risk of fractures, and possibly lead to chronic pain and deformity.

Osteoporosis can be successfully treated with a class of medications known as bisphosphonates. These are available in the form of daily, weekly or monthly tablets or a yearly intravenous medication. There are advantages and disadvantages to such medications, so it’s important to discuss these medications with your provider and to understand the associated risks and benefits.

A wise lifestyle choice involves taking steps early in life to proactively guard against bone loss and the potential for developing osteoporosis. Such steps include engaging in regular weight-bearing exercise such as hiking, jogging, dancing or jumping rope. Additionally, it’s important to consume fresh fruits and vegetables, increase calcium and vitamin D intake, reduce caffeine consumption, and limit alcohol use.

If you suspect that you may have symptoms of osteoporosis, discuss your symptoms with your provider. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA scan, a specialized X-ray of the spine and hip joint, is a painless test to measure bone density and assess your risk of bone fractures in the future.

Ithaca Primary Care

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