Osteoporosis

General Information | Risk Factors and Symptoms | Diagnosis and Treatment


General information General Information

About Osteoporosis

Advanced age, being a woman, and being Caucasian are all risk factors for osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a silent, progressive disease that causes your bones to weaken. This weakening can lead to fractures. Hip and spine fractures have serious consequences. They can cause disability and severe pain. Hip fractures usually require major surgery.

In the past, osteoporosis was difficult to diagnose until a fracture occurred. Today, we are more aware of osteoporosis and how to prevent, detect, and treat it.

Facts About Osteoporosis

Women are four times more likely than men to suffer from osteoporosis, but men may develop it as well.

Here are some additional facts about osteoporosis:

  • Osteoporosis is highly preventable.
  • The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that almost 12 million people in the United States have osteoporosis. About 80% are women.
  • Every year about 1.5 million Americans suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture.
  • Half of all women and one quarter of all men over the age of 50 will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture in her/his lifetime.
  • Hip fracture patients have a 3-4 times higher risk of dying during the 3 months following their fracture compared to people of a similar age in the community without a fracture. 1 in 5 of hip fracture patients needs to go to a nursing home after their fracture. 1 in 4 becomes permanently disabled after their hip fracture.
  • While there are several FDA approved medications for preventing and treating osteoporosis, none can completely prevent fractures.

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Risk factors and symptoms Risk Factors and Symptoms

Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

Weight-bearing exercise can help prevent osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis progresses painlessly, so most people do not know they have it until they suffer a fracture. By realizing your level of risk, you can take appropriate steps to prevent or minimize the impact of osteoporosis.

Following are some risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop osteoporosis. Speak with your primary healthcare provider about your risk level and preventative measures you can take.

  • Being female
  • Being Caucasian or Asian
  • Advanced age
  • Personal history of fracture after age 50 unassociated with a significant trauma
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Current low bone density
  • History of fracture in a first-degree relative
  • Current cigarette smoking
  • Low body weight (less than 127 pounds) or having a small frame
  • Estrogen deficiency (past menopause or early menopause before age 45)
  • Excessive alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks per day)
  • Low lifelong calcium intake
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Poor health or frailty
  • Inadequate physical activity
  • Long term use of steroid medication and some anticonvulsants
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Low testosterone levels in men

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Reducing the Risk

The best way to prevent osteoporosis is to build strong bones during childhood and adolescence. However, later in life there are measures you can take to reduce your risk.

  • Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
  • Do weight-bearing exercise
  • Stop smoking
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Get bone density testing and medication when appropriate

Diagnosis and treatment Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing Osteoporosis

Bone density tests are safe, painless and quick tests that can measure bone strength and predict fracture risk before you develop osteoporosis. Prevention therapy can be started if necessary. Bone density tests are also used to determine if particular medications are improving bone density and strength over time.

Treating this Condition

There are no radiology procedures for treating osteoporosis. However, there are radiology procedures that may minimize the painful effects of osteoporosis.

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are both minimally-invasive ways to treat the pain associated with compression fractures in the spine. These fractures may be caused by osteoporosis. The procedures can also prevent further collapse of the spine, which causes height loss and spine curvatures.

Therapeutic pain management may be used to control pain that is not relieved by other methods. Pain management techniques can stop chronic pain by blocking nerve signals between the affected area and the brain. Blocking is achieved through image-guided injections of local anesthetics, steroids, or narcotics into affected areas.

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