Guide to Osteoporosis: Signs, Symptoms & Treatments
When you have osteoporosis, it means that you have experienced a reduction in the quality and density of your bones. The definition of the word osteoporosis is porous bone. As the disease progresses and your bones become increasingly fragile and porous, the likelihood of fracturing a bone becomes much more significant. You’re typically not aware of bone loss as it occurs since it happens gradually and silently. It’s common for people not to know they have osteoporosis until they have their first unexplained bone fracture.
Causes of Osteoporosis and Most Common Types of Fractures
Each of your bones is a living tissue that undergoes constant change. In fact, the bones strengthen and develop continually from the time of your birth. Both men and women reach peak bone mass in their 20s, which means that this is the age when bones are at their strongest. It is normal for the cells in bones to begin dissolving matrix with aging. This process, called resorption, occurs while new bone cells deposit osteoid, known as formation. Doctors call the entire process remodeling.
For people with osteoporosis, the loss of bone outpaces the growth of new bone. This causes the existing bone to become porous and brittle, two prime conditions for a bone fracture. Worldwide, approximately one-third of women and one-fifth of men have a high risk of sustaining a bone fracture due to osteoporosis. The spine, wrist, and hip are the most common areas of the body for this to take place.
Hip and spine fractures among the older population are common and troubling. Both can cause serious consequences, such as deformity of the back, severe pain, loss of height, and the need for corrective surgery. These types of fractures can also cause a complete loss of independence or even death.
Indications You Could Have Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis often doesn’t present any symptoms in the early stages. As it progresses, you may notice a loss of height or a dull pain in your muscles or bones. This is especially common in the neck and lower back. Eventually, you may experience sharp pain that usually comes on suddenly. It will typically remain in one spot and not spread to other areas. However, your pain may increase if you put weight on the affected area. The pain may also include a feeling of tenderness. Although it typically subsides in about a week, it may last up to three months.
Bones break easily with osteoporosis, but it isn’t always due to a fall or some other type of trauma. This is especially common with fractures of the foot or spine. When spinal compression occurs due to bone loss, the result is a stooped appearance known as dowager’s hump. Fractures of the wrist bones or the hip typically do occur because of a fall.
Treatment Options and Prevention Strategies for Osteoporosis
Lifestyle modifications and taking prescription medication can both be useful in lessening the effect of osteoporosis. The most common drugs that doctors prescribe for this condition belong to a larger drug grouping called bisphosphonates.
These drugs include:
- Actonel, generic name Risedronate
- Boniva, generic name Ibandronate
- Fosamax, generic name Alendronate
- Reclast, generic name Zoledronic acid
Supplementing the hormone estrogen can be useful for women who have osteoporosis or who are at risk of developing it. Currently, the rheumatologists at United Hospital Center recommend using the lowest possible dose of estrogen replacement for the shortest duration of time due to the potential of significant side effects. Women going through menopause who are considering estrogen replacement anyway should discuss the risks and benefits of estrogen as a treatment and prevention for osteoporosis.
Abaloparatide, also known as Tymlos, is one of the newest forms of medication used to treat osteoporosis. It can be extremely effective at rebuilding bone. Another medication with excellent potential to rebuild bone is Teriparatide, also known as Forteo. This medication is only appropriate for men and for women who have completed menopause.
Denosumab, which also goes by the names Xgeva and Prolia, is a new non-bisphosphonate that can reduce the risk of bone fractures in women and men. It’s a good option for people with reduced kidney function who can’t tolerate a drug in the bisphosphonate family.
The primary benefit of most osteoporosis drugs is that these medications down the process of bone disintegration. Abalparatide and Teriparatide can actually rebuild bone. You would take any of these drugs orally, unless your body cannot tolerate these. In that case, you would receive an intravenous injection of ibandronate or zoledronic acid.
Prevention Tips for Osteoporosis
Both children and adults can take steps to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. Younger women should especially understand the condition and what they can do to help prevent it.
The most helpful things people of any age can do to possibly prevent osteoporosis include:
- Consume a nutritious diet
- Be certain to consume enough calcium and protein
- Get an adequate amount of Vitamin D
- Don’t smoke or expose yourself to second-hand smoke if you can avoid it
- Engage in regular physical activity, including weight-bearing activity
- Avoid severe calorie restriction
- Avoid consuming too much alcohol
Diet Choices an Important Part of Osteoporosis Management
While genetic factors play a large role in who will or will not develop this disease, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can both help to slow the process of bone loss. It’s important to eat a diet that is both sensible and balanced. It should contain plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as beans, bread, potatoes, and yogurt. Additionally, be sure to eat a moderate amount of low-fat cheese, very lean meat, oily fish, and drink approximately 250 ml of low-fat milk each day.
The best sources to find calcium include cheese, milk, yogurt, baked beans, dried fruit, and bony fish. Frequent consumption of caffeine, chocolate, and red meat can make the condition progress faster than it would have otherwise.
Exercises to Strengthen Bones and Slow the Progression of Osteoporosis
Flexibility, stability, strength training, and weight-bearing aerobic exercise are all helpful to deal with the symptoms of this condition. To keep your joints and muscles working as well as possible, we recommend stretching frequently throughout the day. However, avoid stretches that force you to bend at the waist or to flex your spine as this can further damage your bones.
Exercises to improve stability and balance are important to help you avoid falls. Even simple exercises will help, such as alternating standing on one leg. If you’re feeling especially ambitious, consider signing up for a tai chi class.
Strength and resistance training involves using resistance bands, free weights, or the weight of your own body to increase the strength of all major muscle groups. This is especially important for the spine to ensure good posture for as long as possible. Resistance training is useful for maintaining your current level of bone density.
A weight-bearing aerobic activity is one that you do while on your feet with your bones supporting the weight of your body. Some examples include walking, low-impact aerobics, dancing, gardening, and climbing stairs. These types of exercises strengthen the bones in your legs, lower spine, and hips and can slow the loss of minerals.
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