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Osteoporosis

Introduction:

 

Osteoporosis is a very common disorder in which bone strength is compromised, raising risk of fractures. Nearly 1.7 million fractures leading to hospitalization in the US are attributed to osteoporosis.  After age 60, risk of an osteoporotic fracture (a ‘fragility fracture’) doubles with every passing decade.

 

Other risk factors for developing an osteoporotic fracture include:

 

  • Steroid use

  • Low bone mineral density (thickness of the bone) diagnosed on a DEXA scan

  • Frequent falls

  • Prior history of a fragility fracture

 

Symptoms:

 

Osteoporosis often goes undiagnosed until a fracture actually occurs. These ‘fragility fractures’ are either spontaneous or happen after minimal trauma (eg. after falling from a standing height or less) and usually involve the spine, hips, arm, or forearm.

 

Importance of Prevention:

 

Prevention of osteoporotic fractures is considered much more important than treating them later because of the risks involved. Spinal fractures can cause loss of height, spinal hump, and difficulty with breathing. Hip fractures are often considered the most dangerous osteoporotic fractures, with up to 50% of hip fractures leading to permanent disability and a significantly increased risk of death.

 

Key measures in prevention of osteoporosis and fragility fractures include:

 

  • Regular exercise especially weight bearing exercise

  • Stopping smoking

  • Moderating alcohol use (less than 2 drinks/day)

  • Ingesting recommended amounts of vitamin D and Calcium, preferably from natural sources

  • Usage of bone strengthening medications such as bisphosphonates to halt osteoporosis

  • Seeking treatment for any other diseases that could lead to bone thinning such as thyroid problems, estrogen deficiency etc.