Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which the density of the bones reduces, making the bones more vulnerable, weak and brittle. In this condition, even a minor accident, trauma, fall, stress (including middle stress caused by bending over and coughing) can lead to a fracture. The word osteoporosis typically means porous or spongy bones.
Bones are living tissues in the human body that experience normal wear and tear during the natural course of life; they are broken down and replaced constantly as a part of the renewal process of bones. In this process, the old bone tissue is broken and replaced with new bone tissue, produced by the body cells. The rate, at which the breaking and replacing of bones takes place, varies from time to time, typically with age. During childhood and younger years, the rate is very high but it gradually reduces with increasing age. That said, it is a general phenomenon to lose some bone tissue with age, which is not a matter of concern. However, when this rate significantly decreases over time and the bones become too fragile, the condition is referred to as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis caused holes in the bone structure to become larger, thereby reducing the overall bone density, making them more prone to breakage.
Osteoporosis is very common and can be easily treated. It can affect men and women, though due to certain reasons, white and Asian women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
Causes of Osteoporosis
During the normal course of life, the bones in the human body break down to allow the formation of new and stronger bones. This renewal process of bones continues across all stages of life, but the rate at which the new bone tissue replaces the older ones significantly reduces as one increases in age. Moreover, the replacement of old bones with new, studier bones is also affected by several other factors. When the rate of replacement decreases, causing more bone loss than renewal, the condition is referred to as osteoporosis, which causes holes in the honeycomb structure of the bones larger than normal, causing them to break easily.
It is a common fact, that when a person is young, the process of bone renewal is strong, allowing the body to make new bones faster than old bones, causing an increase in bone density. But this process gradually declines and by the age of 30, people have already achieved the maximum bone density level. With increasing age, the loss of bone mass is higher than replacement; hence, the chances of a person developing osteoporosis are hugely dependent on how much bone mass is achieved when young. This is also highly influenced by race, ethnicity, family history, diet, and lifestyle patterns.
Some factors that make some people more prone to developing osteoporosis are:
- Sex: Women are more likely to be affected by osteoporosis than men.
- Age: Increasing age causes higher chances of osteoporosis
- Race: Asian and White descent people are more at risk for osteoporosis
- Family History: If a parent or sibling has osteoporosis, it increases the risk.
- Body Frame Size: People with smaller body frames are at more risk of being affected by osteoporosis.
- Hormones: Osteoporosis is more common in people who have excessive or too less of certain hormones such as low estrogen in women and testosterone in men. Also, the presence of too much thyroid hormone can increase the chances of osteoporosis.
- Dietary Factors: People who have low calcium intake or suffer from eating disorders are at more risk of osteoporosis. Moreover, men or women who have undergone gastrointestinal surgery are more prone to bone thinning because of the inability of the body to absorb calcium and other nutrients from food.
- Certain Medications: Long-term use of certain medications and steroids can interfere with the bone-building process, increasing chances of osteoporosis.
- Health Problems: Existing health conditions such as cancer, lupus, kidney or liver disease, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. can increase the likelihood of osteoporosis.
- Lifestyle Patterns: People who follow a sedentary lifestyle, have no physical workout or consume too much alcohol or tobacco – are at more risk of suffering from osteoporosis.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
A person in the early stage of osteoporosis does not experience any symptoms; there may be bone loss, but one cannot know about it until he/she experiences a fracture or an accident such as a fall, etc. But in some cases, a person might have the below symptoms of osteoporosis:
- Extreme back pain due to a fracture or a collapsed vertebra
- Loss of height
- Stooped posture
- Fragile bones
- Ill-fitted clothes
Bones at are suffering from osteoporosis become too fragile, weak and can even break with a sneeze or cough, in severe cases. That said, some bones are at more risk of being affected than others, such as hip, wrists, or the spinal vertebrae. For patients, experiencing severe discomfort or pain in common areas that are more prone to osteoporosis, medical attention must be sought immediately.
Treatment of Osteoporosis
The treatment of osteoporosis is targeted at the following:
- To reduce the risk of low-impact fractures
- Improve bone density
- Maintain healthy bone mass
- Minimise pain
- Slow the development of osteoporosis
Treatment and preventive options of osteoporosis include the following:
- Healthy diet
- Lifestyle habits
Overall, osteoporosis can be avoided if a person follows preventive measures such as healthy lifestyle, physical exercise, daily supplements, etc. Moreover, the impact of the problem can be reduced if it is diagnosed early on through regular medical check-ups. As the condition advances further, the complications tend to increase.