Osteoporosis is the weakening of bones which makes them easily breakable. Slightest of the stress like bending or coughing is able to bend or break the bones (fracture).
Normally, the bones are constantly broken little by little and replaced again at the same speed. In osteoporosis, the bones break down easily but they have not replaced again at the same speed. So there is a weakness of the bones which leads to fractures.
Osteoporosis affects both men and women equally; however, it is more common in women who have attained their menopause.
Usually the patient of osteoporosis does not experience much signs and symptoms in the initial stages. But once, the patient reaches higher stages of the disease, there may be symptoms like:
- Backache due to fractured vertebra
- Stooping over the time
- Short stature (loss of height) as the time passes
- Easy bone fractures with slightest of the stress on the bones, which is mostly seen in weight bearing joints like hips, vertebra or wrists.
In a normal individual, the bones are constantly broken down and new bones are formed. Normally, the speed of new bone formation is faster than that of breaking of the bones. So when a person is young, the new bones are formed at a faster pace and hence the bone mass increases.
As the age increases, the speed of new bone formation does not keep up with that of the breaking of bones. This leads to thinning of the bones leading to weakness and breaking. So the bone mass is lost faster than it’s created.
- Age: osteoporosis is seen in old people.
- Sex: women are more likely to get affected than men.
- Family history: a person with a parent or sibling having osteoporosis has more chances of getting affected with osteoporosis.
- Body frame: people who have a small body frame, generally have less bone mass to draw from in the older age. So they are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Sex hormones: lowered levels of the hormone estrogen in menopausal women increase their risk of osteoporosis. Similarly decrease in the level of testosterone in men may lead to osteoporosis. Both these hormones deplete if the patient is on treatment for certain cancers like Ca prostate.
- Thyroid hormone changes: excess thyroid hormone levels can lead to bone loss. When the patient has overactive thyroid or if he/she is taking too much thyroid hormone medicines for underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), chances of getting affected with osteoporosis is much increased.
- Other gland problem: osteoporosis can occur in cases of overactive parathyroid and adrenal glands.
- Low dietary calcium intake
- Eating disorders: people suffering from anorexia have high risk of developing osteoporosis. Low intake of food can lead to decrease in proteins and calcium in the body which are needed for proper bone formation.
- Excessive alcohol and tobacco use: people who take alcohol in higher amounts than needed, and those who constantly chew tobacco have high risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Sedentary lifestyle: people who spend most of the time sitting at home or at work, without giving any exercise to the body have greater risk of developing osteoporosis than those who are active.
- Gastrointestinal surgery: people who have undergone a gastrointestinal surgery leading to small sized stomach or loss of a part of intestine may be affected with osteoporosis due to small amount of surface area needed for absorption of nutrients including calcium.
- Low level X-rays are used to diagnose osteoporosis by determining the proportion of minerals present in the bones.
- Usually only few joints are checked which have more chances of getting affected like hips, wrists and vertebrae.
- Limiting the use of alcohol and tobacco.
- Stoppage of smoking might help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Taking utmost care to prevent falling or any other injury to the bones and joints.
- Mild exercises or walking to keep the body healthy and preventing sitting constantly at one place.