- Osteoporosis results from a loss of bone mass (measured as bone density) and from a change in bone structure.
- Many factors will raise your risk of developing osteoporosis and breaking a bone. You can change some of these risk factors, but not others. Recognizing your risk factors is important so you can take steps to prevent this condition or treat it before it becomes worse.
- Age is not the only risk factor for osteoporosis. Lifestyle choices, certain diseases and even medications can lead to this condition.
- A simple test known as a bone density scan, or DEXA scan , can give important information about your bone health.
- Newer medications can slow and even stop the progression of bones getting weaker, and can help decrease fracture risk.
- Osteoporosis is a common condition. Bone is living tissue that is in a constant state of regeneration. The body removes old bone (called bone resorption) and replaces it with new bone (bone formation). By their mid-30s, most people begin to slowly lose more bone than can be replaced. As a result, bones become thinner and weaker in structure. This accelerates in women at the time of the menopause. In men bone lost usually becomes more of an issue around age 70.
Osteoporosis is silent because there are no symptoms (what you feel). Sometimes you might notice height lost by noticing your clothes are not fitting right. Other times it may come to your attention only after you break a bone. When you have this condition, a fracture can occur even after a minor injury, such as a fall. The most common fractures occur at the spine, wrist and hip. Spine and hip fractures, in particular, may lead to chronic (long-term) pain and disability, and even death. The main goal of treating osteoporosis is to prevent such fractures in the first place.
Because Osteoporosis is silent, the bone density test, or DEXA,scan has become of major importance. The DEXA scan can tell you if your bone is becoming osteoporotic.
Fortunately, you can take steps to reduce your risk of osteoporosis. By doing so, you can avoid the often-disabling broken bones (fractures) that can result from this condition. If you already have osteoporosis, new medications are available to slow or even stop the bones from getting weaker. These medicines also can decrease the chance of having a fracture.
What causes osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis results from a loss of bone mass (measured as bone density) and from a change in bone structure. Many factors will raise your risk of developing osteoporosis and breaking a bone. You can change some of these risk factors, but not others. Recognizing your risk factors is important so you can take steps to prevent this condition or treat it before it becomes worse.
Major risk factors that you cannot change include:
- Advancing age, menopause
- Non-Hispanic white or Asian ethnic background
- Small bone structure
- Parents you have broken their hips
- Prior fracture due to a low-level injury, particularly after age 50
Risk factors that you may be able to change include:
- o Low levels of sex hormone, mainly estrogen in women (e.g., menopause)
- The eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia
- Cigarette smoking
- Alcohol abuse
- Low calcium and vitamin D, from low intake in your diet starting during your teens and 20’s or inadequate absorption in your gut
- Sedentary (inactive) lifestyle or immobility
- Certain medications, including the following:
- glucocorticoid medications (also called corticosteroids), such as prednisone (brand names: Deltasone, Orasone, etc.) or prednisolone (Prelone); see fact sheet on excess thyroid hormone replacement in those taking medications for low thyroid or hypothyroidism
- heparin, a commonly-used blood thinner
- some treatments that deplete sex hormones, such as anastrozole (Arimidex) and letrozole (Femara) to treat breast cancer or leuprorelin (Lupron) to treat prostate cancer and other health problems
- Diseases that can affect bones
- endocrine (hormone) diseases (hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, Cushing's disease, etc.)
- inflammatory arthritis