OSTEOPOROSIS

Spinal compression fractures and osteoporosis were once thought to be only a woman’s disease and one that affected only older women. But that’s not true. Men and women of all ages need to know about the symptoms and treatments of this condition.

Osteoporosis is a common metabolic bone disorder characterized by the progressive loss of bone mass density. It predominantly affects the thoracic and thoracolumbar regions of the spine and is a serious contributing factor to hip and wrist fractures that occur from falling. Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak, fragile and susceptible to fracture. This can cause loss of height, stooped posture, humpback (kyphosis), and severe pain that can be debilitating.

Although osteoporosis is more common in women, men are at risk too. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recently reported that osteoporosis is responsible for approximately 700,000 vertebral fractures each year!

The purpose of this information is to help you understand osteoporosis, the symptoms and complications, how it is diagnosed and treated, the risk factors, and how you can begin to prevent or control this disorder today with your physician’s assistance.

Bone: Living Tissue

During childhood and adolescence the body builds its ‘bone bank’ to help fortify the body’s skeletal architecture during adulthood. This is why proper nutrition, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle are advocated to give a growing body every advantage. Although most adults reach their peak bone mass around 30 years of age, many factors affect peak bone mass including gender and heredity.

Throughout adulthood living bone renews itself by breaking down old bone and replacing it with new. Osteoclasts resorb portions of old bone and osteoblasts follow to form an organic matrix of minerals that become new bone. Of course, there are many other chemical changes required to sustain this cycle (e.g. hormones).

Osteoporosis occurs when the balance of the cycle is upset causing bone to break down faster than it can be replaced by new bone. Over time, this can seriously affect the structural integrity of bone

Symptoms and Complications

Osteoporosis is an insidious disease. Some patients discover the disorder exists after sustaining a fracture. Vertebral fractures (e.g. compression, wedge, burst) are painful and can take several months until pain subsides. In severe osteoporosis, vertebrae become so fragile they can collapse upon themselves without trauma. As vertebral bodies collapse the loss of vertebral height actually causes the patient to shrink.

Physical deformity can occur such as a hump back (kyphosis). This results from vertebral collapse in the thoracic spine. Kyphosis can cause severe pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness.

As the structural integrity of the vertebrae is compromised upper body height can be lost allowing the ribs to drop downward to the hips. This may compress the internal organs and causes the abdomen to protrude. Breathing can be impaired due to restricted lung expansion.

The symptoms of osteoporosis can devastate a patient’s quality of life. Deformity often causes loss of self-esteem, disability, and may force the patient to give up activities that previously brought enjoyment. Even finding stylish clothing to fit properly can be difficult.

Symptoms and Complications

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Most people affected by osteoporosis are women. However, this bone robbing metabolic disease is found in men, people of all ages, and ethnic backgrounds.

Osteopenia is not osteoporosis. Osteopenia refers to lower than peak bone mineral density, but is not classified as osteoporosis. Women are more apt to develop osteopenia because of hormonal changes during menopause.

A bone mineral density (BMD) test can detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs and helps to predict future fracture risk.

Fractures of the spine's vertebral bodies are commonly caused by osteoporosis. Approximately 700,000 vertebral fractures occur each year.

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Osteoporosis Animation Video Transcript

Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to form enough new bone, or when too much old bone is reabsorbed by the body, or both. In normal healthy bone, remodeling occurs when osteoclasts eat away at the bone tissue and osteoblasts come in and refill the holes with new bone.

As part of this process, the body uses calcium and phosphate to produce strong bones during youth. If calcium intake is not sufficient, or if the body does not absorb enough calcium from the diet, bone production and bone tissues may suffer. The bones become less dense and more susceptible to breakage.

In fact, in people with osteoporosis, bone fractures often occur with very little stress. Osteoporosis occurs gradually during aging and is more prevalent in women.

 

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