Sometimes referred to as “brittle bone disease,” osteoporosis is a condition that may affect 50 million Americans, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. While anyone can develop osteoporosis, postmenopausal women are more susceptible to developing the condition due to age-related changes in bone density. As tissues break down in bones, the odds of experiencing a fracture increase.
Who Gets Osteoporosis?
Other than postmenopausal women, osteoporosis can also affect younger women or women who are about to start menopause. Children may have a form of the condition known as juvenile osteoporosis. It sometimes develops in adolescents during growth spurts. About 2 million men have osteoporosis and more than 10 million additional males may be at risk for developing it.
Do You Have Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that’s often slow to develop. For this reason, possible signs of osteoporosis tend to be subtle, such as a gradual loss of height due to bone loss within the spine. Signs that it’s time to see a doctor to get evaluated for osteoporosis may also include:
• Greater instances of back pain
• Frequent bone fractures
• Increased aches and pains around joints
• Development of a noticeable stooped posture
How Is Osteoporosis Diagnosed?
A bone density test is typically performed to determine the degree of bone loss involved. The diagnosis of osteoporosis may also involve a bone density scan done with a low-radiation X-ray. Testing may also be done around affected joints, with a CT scan or MRI, or with a special type of ultrasound (quantitative ultrasound).
What Are Possible Treatment Options?
The treatment of osteoporosis is determined by a patient’s likely risk of sustaining a fracture within the next several years. Drugs known as bisphosphonates are the most common medication prescribed to manage osteoporosis. Postmenopausal women may be given selective elective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMS) to increase estrogen levels. Testosterone replacement therapy may be recommended for men with osteoporosis. Some patients benefit from:
• Customized exercise plans
• Use of assistance devices, such as canes, to prevent falls
• Making an effort to remain properly hydrated
Having a family history of osteoporosis increases the odds of developing the condition. However, the odds of developing issues with low bone density can be minimized by eating a diet rich in essential nutrients, especially calcium and vitamin D, getting regular exercise to keep muscles and other soft tissues that support bones strong, avoiding smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.