Osteoporosis, a condition that causes weak and brittle bones, affects more than ten million older Americans. People of all races and gender can be afflicted, and small-framed and post-menopausal women are at greater risk due to a loss of estrogen that normally enhances bone development. Others more predisposed to a decrease in bone density are those with a history of smoking, who have a family history of osteoporosis, or are taking medications known to cause bone loss.
Medications shown to cause a loss of bone include corticosteroids and other immune-suppressive therapy, if taken at length. People who have had cancer or are currently undergoing treatment for the disease also have a higher likelihood that it will cause a negative impact on their bone due to the immunosuppressive effect chemotherapy has on their system. Not getting enough calcium or Vitamin D is another heightening factor that can lead to development of osteoporosis, as are alcohol abuse, an inactive lifestyle and lack of weight-bearing exercise.
Those already suffering from certain disease have an increased chance of developing the condition, including those suffering from arthritis, diabetes, and asthma.
Common symptoms of osteoporosis include backache or sudden severe back pain which can indicate a spinal compression fracture, a gradual loss of height accompanied by stooped posture, or fractures of the spine, wrist or hip, three areas that are used in most movement.
There are two types of osteoporosis—primary and secondary. Primary osteoporosis could be senile osteoporosis caused by aging or idiopathic osteoporosis caused by unknown factors. Secondary osteoporosis has an on-set triggered by another disease, lifestyle factors or medical treatment.
If you suspect you might be at risk of developing this condition, schedule a bone density scan with a radiologist to monitor the mineral density of your bone for a proper diagnosis. Dental X-rays can also reveal a loss of bone in the jaw area, another sign of osteoporosis. Regular dental exams and up-to-date X-rays ensure that you will be aware of any developing issues as soon as they occur. Most affected do not realize their bones are weakening until the disorder manifests itself in fractures or broken bones.
Although post-menopausal women tend to suffer osteoporosis in greater percentages, bone loss caused by a decrease in estrogen typically lasts about 10 years or until the age of 60, at which point it slows but does not cease. Men do not lose as much bone density during this period of time, but by the age of 65, men and women are losing bone mass at the same rate. Those over the age of 50 are most at risk. Statistics show that 50 percent of women and 25 percent of men over the age of 50 will likely suffer a fracture caused by osteoporosis.
May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month. If you suspect you or a loved one may be suffering bone loss, contact the National Osteoporosis Foundation for more information, advice or guidance.