Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease that affects bone density and strength. The word osteoporosis literally means “porous bones”. If you have osteoporosis, it means that you have lost some bone material. Your bones become less dense. This makes them more prone to break (fracture). Generally, ‘thinning’ of the bones (osteoporosis) mainly affects older people, but it can affect persons of any age.

There are many risk factors for osteoporosis that you cannot control. These include gender, being older and having a family history of osteoporosis. There are some factors, however, that do fall within your control.

Some of the things you can do to prevent osteoporosis include:

  • getting optimum amounts of calcium and vitamin D
  • engaging in weight-bearing exercises, such as walking or lifting weights
  • stopping smoking and drinking
Causes and Symptoms

The biggest risk factor for osteoporosis is age. As people grow older, the body goes through the process of breaking down old bone and growing new bone in its place. Around the age of 30, however, the body starts losing bone faster than it’s able to replace.

Menopause can cause a woman’s body to lose bone even more quickly. Men continue to lose bone during this time, but at a slower rate. Between the ages of 65 and 70, women and men are usually losing bone at the same rate.

Osteoporosis generally does not become clinically apparent until a fracture occurs. Two thirds of vertebral fractures are painless. But once your bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, you may have signs and symptoms that include:

  • Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
  • Loss of height over time
  • A stooped posture
  • A bone fracture that occurs much more easily than expected
Treatment

The most common drugs used to treat osteoporosis are called bisphosphonates. They include alendronate, Ibandronate and zoledronic acid. Bisphosphonates are used to prevent the loss of bone mass. They may be taken orally or by injection. The chief complications of osteoporosis are fractures and the pain and disability that accompany them. Medication and lifestyle changes, such as fall prevention measures, can help you avoid fractures. Pain management and an appropriate plan for rehabilitation can ease the impact of fractures.