Overview: Osteoporosis

What is Osteoporosis?

Bones continually renew themselves. Old bone is broken down and replaced with new bone. When new bone production cannot keep up with old bone loss, bones become porous and extremely brittle, this is a medical condition called osteoporosis.

The inside of healthy bone resembles the structure of a honeycomb. The inside of bone of an individual with osteoporosis is different, the spaces inside the bone increase which causes the bone to become weak. The outside of the bone then becomes thinner which increases the risk of fractures and breaks. When osteoporosis is present, an activity as simple as walking can cause a bone fracture or break. In severe cases, bones may become so brittle that a fracture can occur simply from coughing or bending over. The ribs, hips, wrists, and spine are the most commonly affected bones.

Symptoms of Osteoporosis

Typically the symptoms of osteoporosis include, but are not limited to: loss of height, stooped posture, back pain, neck pain, and/or vertebrae compression fractures. Normally, there are no early symptoms of osteoporosis; however, if they do occur, they include receding gums, a weakened grip, and/or brittle nails.

Risk Factors for Developing Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is more common in older adults. Although osteoporosis affects both men and women of all races, post-menopausal white and Asian women are most at risk to develop the condition.

There are multiple risk factors that contribute to the development of osteoporosis. Risk factors arising from lifestyle choices can be avoided; whereas, others are inherent and cannot be avoided. Lifestyle risk factors that contribute to the development of osteoporosis include: smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, low degree of physical activity, and poor nutrition. Inherent risks such as: age, race, family history, and certain medical conditions affect the possibility of developing osteoporosis.

Additionally, individuals with small body frames have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, as they have an overall lesser bone mass. An imbalance of certain hormones (sex hormones, thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal glands) also increases the risk. Furthermore, certain medications (such as corticosteroids), eating disorders, gastrointestinal surgeries, early menopause, and low weight are risk factors. Those who have risk factors for developing osteoporosis should speak with their physician in order to help prevent it.

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