Osteoporosis – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Osteoporosis is a condition that features loss of the normal density of bone and fragile bone. Any bone can be affected by osteoporosis, but the most common sites are bones in the hip, spine, wrist, ribs, pelvis and upper arm. One in two women and one in five men over age 65 will have problem in their bones due to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis has been estimated to lead to 1.3 million bone fractures a year in people over 45 years of age, which is represents 70 percent of all fractures occurring in this age group.

Causes

Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals such as calcium, and the body cannot replace these minerals fast enough to keep the bones healthy. Everyone loses bone with age. After age 35, the body builds less new bone to replace losses of old bone. In general, the older you are, the lower your total bone mass and the greater your risk for osteoporosis. At menopause, when estrogen levels drop, bone loss in women increases dramatically. Although many factors contribute to bone loss, the leading cause in women is decreased estrogen production during menopause. The exact role tobacco plays in osteoporosis isn’t clearly understood, but researchers do know that tobacco use contributes to weak bones.

Symptoms

Fractures of the spine can cause severe “band-like” pain that radiates around from the back to the side of the body. Over the years, repeated spine fractures can cause chronic lower back pain as well as loss of height or curving of the spine, which gives the individual a hunched-back appearance often called a “dowager hump.”

When symptoms do appear, the most common ones are:

* A broken bone
* Back pain
* Decreased height
* Formation of a rounded upper back

Treatment

It is best to prevent osteoporosis before it starts, and there are many steps that everyone can take to decrease the risk of bone loss. If you are at high risk of osteoporosis or are already experiencing bone loss, talk to your doctor about available treatments. There are medications that can slow the rate of bone loss and even help rebuild bone.

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, your health professional probably will recommend lifestyle and diet changes. Eat foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus, all necessary for maintaining healthy, strong bones.

Calcitonin is a hormone that the human body makes in the thyroid gland. It slows the break down of bone. Supplemental calcitonin comes as an injection or a nasal spray that is approved for treatment of osteoporosis in men and women.