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  • Date :
  • 12/22/2007

What is osteoporosis?


Osteoporosis is a progressive disease that causes bones to become thin and brittle, making them more likely to break. Osteoporosis may result in broken bones (fractures) in the spine and hip. Hip fractures often require hospitalization, and fractures of the bones in the spine (vertebrae) can cause loss of height and severe back pain. Both may lead to permanent disability.

Whether you develop osteoporosis depends on the thickness of your bones early in life, as well as health, diet, and physical activity later in life.

What causes osteoporosis?

During childhood and teen years, new bone is added faster than existing bone is absorbed by the body. After age 30, this process begins to reverse. As a natural part of aging, bone dissolves and is absorbed faster than new bone is made, and bones become thinner. You are more apt to have osteoporosis if you did not reach your ideal bone thickness (bone mineral density) during your childhood and teenage years. Not getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus may contribute to bone thinning. After age 50, lower levels of estrogen in women and of testosterone in men may speed up bone loss.

If your mother, father, or a sibling has osteoporosis, your risk for the disease may be higher.


What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a "silent disease" because typically you do not have symptoms in its early stages. As the disease progresses, you may develop symptoms related to weakened bones, including:

• Back pain.

 Loss of height and stooped posture.

• A curved backbone.

• Fractures that may occur with a minor injury, especially of the hip, spine, or wrist.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

A diagnosis of osteoporosis is based on your medical history, physical examination, and a test to measure your bone thickness (bone density test). Early diagnosis of osteoporosis is very important in order to begin treatment that might prevent fractures.

How is osteoporosis treated?

The process of bone thinning is a natural part of aging. However, you can slow or delay osteoporosis with healthy lifestyle habits, such as not smoking, getting enough calcium and vitamin D, and getting regular exercise, which helps build and strengthen your bones.

Treatment for osteoporosis includes eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, getting regular exercise, and taking medication to reduce bone loss and increase bone thickness. It's important to take calcium and vitamin D supplements along with any medications you take for osteoporosis. Even small changes in diet, exercise, and medication can help prevent a broken bone.

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