Osteoporosis is a debilitating condition that causes the bones to become weak and brittle. Such people, mostly seniors, are more vulnerable to fractures of the wrist, spine, and hips. It often shows no symptoms during the early stages, which is why it is known as the “silent disease.”
Most people only find out when they break a bone due to a fall, bump, or strain. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the bone mineral density in osteoporosis patients is less than 2.5 standard deviations (SD).
If suspicions arise, the patient should get tested even if osteoporosis symptoms do not show up. Doubts could occur due to a recent fracture, and age should also be taken into account.
The bone density is usually measured with the help of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. This blog post thus addresses the detection and management of osteoporosis in detail:
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
As discussed earlier, the symptoms of this disease do not reveal themselves in the initial stages. The condition develops and progresses slowly over many years. A sudden impact or a minor fall can cause fractures of the bone.
Typically, seniors fracture their wrist, hip, rib, or vertebral column.
Some the symptoms of osteoporosis include:
- A stooped posture
- Loss of height over several years
- Back pain triggered by collapsed or fractured vertebra
- A fracture that could have been avoided easily
Causes of Osteoporosis
In every healthy individual, bones undergo a continuous state of renewal, meaning that a new one replaces the old bone. This process happens reasonably fast in younger individuals, where new bones are made faster than the old ones are broken down.
It’s by the early 20s that most people achieve their peak bone mass. However, after that age, there is a slow decline. Loss of bone mass appears, and the creation process cannot keep up.
A person’s ability to maintain a healthy bone mass depends on how much they attained it in their youth. A higher peak bone mass in their 20s suggests that they are less likely to develop osteoporosis later in life.
Before moving on to the diagnosis and management of osteoporosis, it’s essential to understand the risk factors:
It’s a known fact that osteoporosis is more prevalent in women compared to men. And that’s because hormonal changes impact their bone density. After the onset of menopause, the estrogen level falls, causing a rapid decline in bone mass.
The causes of osteoporosis in men are unclear. However, studies have linked it to low levels of testosterone. This male hormone plays an essential role in keeping the bones healthy. Men can produce testosterone well into old age.
The risk is greater in those who have low levels of this hormone.
Other risk factors include:
- Low body mass index (BMI)
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Heavy smoking and drinking
- High doses of corticosteroid (used in the treatment of asthma and arthritis)
There are three main diagnostic techniques involved:
- Conventional Radiography: It is primarily used in conjunction with MRI or CT. However, a substantial bone loss (nearly 30%) would show up in tests making it less effective for early detection.
- Dual-Energy X-Ray: Gold standard of diagnosis.
- Biomarkers: It’s a chemical diagnosis technique that measures the collagen protein in bones.
Prevention of Osteoporosis
Regular exercise and good nutrition are crucial for preventing osteoporosis. A high-protein diet is critical, especially for vegans and vegetarians. They can include eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts, and soy to get their nutrition.
Apart from that, good calcium sources include:
- Canned salmon
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Low-fat dairy products
- Calcium-fortified cereals
The exercise routine should include weight-bearing and strength training workouts to build stronger bones and muscles.
Guidelines for Management of Osteoporosis
Besides the treatment prescribed by the doctor, patients can follow specific guidelines for the management of osteoporosis.
- Lifestyle: High alcohol intake and tobacco smoking are a big no for osteoporosis patients. The intake should be moderated.
- Nutrition: Besides including calcium and protein in the diet, patients can take supplements for calcium and vitamin D (if advised by the doctor). Excess of supplements can cause kidney stones and myocardial infarction.
- Prevent Falls: Making the environment safe for the elderly is critical for preventing falls, especially if they are living with the condition.
Hence, early detection, prevention, and management are vital for osteoporosis patients.