Last week, we discussed Osteoarthritis. This week will bring you some more information on another condition, frequently associated with join pain – Osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a disease often associate with aging women. While post-menopausal women are at higher risk, men can also get affected by osteoporosis, as can others.
The word Osteoporosis means porous bone. It is a disease where decreased bone strength increases the risk of a broken bone. It is a silent disease because bone loss occurs without symptoms. Throughout the lives, the body breaks down old bone and replace it with the new bone but as people age; more bone is broken down than is replaced.
What are the possible signs of Osteoporosis?
This disease does not have any symptoms until a fracture occurs. People who suffer from this disease mostly have broken bones in the hip, spine and wrist. The more likely you are to fall, the higher your risk for a fracture. And more severe falls increase your risk for fractures.
Who can get affected by Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races. But women — especially older women who are past menopause — are at highest risk. Medications, healthy diet and weight-bearing exercise can help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones.
A number of factors can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis — including your age, race, lifestyle choices, and medical conditions and treatments.
- Unchangeable factors – Age, sex (remember, women are at higher risk), body type, and family history will affect your chances of developing osteoporosis.
- Hormone Levels – Changes in hormone levels due to different medical conditions ( eg. thyroid problems, glandular problems, changes in estrogen/progestrone levels due to age can all affect bone density.
- Dietary factors – Dietary factors, especially low calcium levels, eating disorders, malnutritions, etc will increase the risk of osteoporosis.
- Lifestyle choices – People with sedentary lifestyles, with higher alcohol consumption rates, etc will all be more easily affected than those who make healthier choices.
- Medications – Long-term use of oral or injected corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone and cortisone, interferes with the bone-rebuilding process.
Diagnosing osteoporosis involves several steps, starting with a physical exam and a careful medical history, blood and urine tests, and possibly a bone mineral density assessment. When recording information about your medical history, your doctor will ask questions to find out whether you have risk factors for osteoporosis and fractures.
The doctor may ask about
- any fractures that you have had
- your lifestyle (including diet, exercise habits, and whether you smoke)
- current or past health problems
- medications that could contribute to low bone mass and increased fracture risk
- your family history of osteoporosis and other diseases
- For women, your menstrual history.
The goal of the treatment is to prevent fractures. A balanced diet rich in calcium, adequate vitamin D, regular exercise program and fall prevention are all important for maintaining bone health.
There are many medications which are approved by the FDA for the treatment of osteoporosis.
- Bisphosphonates: These medications are approved for the prevention/treatment of osteoporosis. These medications reduce the activity of cells that cause bone loss. There are many side effects of taking oral bisphosphonates like nausea, heartburn, and stomach pain, including serious digestive problems if they are not taken properly. A few people have muscle, bone or joint while using these medicines.
- Parathyroid hormone: PTH is approved for postmenopausal women and men who are at high risk for having a fracture.
- RANK ligand (RANKL) inhibitor: RANKL inhibitor is approved for postmenopausal women with osteoporosis who are at high risk for fracture.
- Estrogen agonists/antagonists: An estrogen agonist/ antagonist is approved for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. SERMs are not estrogens but they have estrogen-like effects on some tissues and estrogen-blocking effects on other tissues.
- Calcitonin: Calcitonin is approved for the treatment of osteoporosis in women who are at least 5 years beyond menopause. Calcitonin is a hormone involved in calcium regulation and bone metabolism.