Archive for the ‘Osteoporosis’ Category

Osteoporosis Overview

Friday, September 8th, 2006

osteoporosis.jpgOsteoporosis, which means “porous bones,” causes bones to become weak and brittle — so brittle that even mild stresses like bending over, lifting a vacuum cleaner or coughing can cause a fracture. In most cases, bones weaken when you have low levels of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals in your bones. Osteoporosis can also accompany endocrine disorders or result from excessive use of drugs such as corticosteroids.

A common result of osteoporosis is fractures — most of them in the spine, hip or wrist. Although it’s often thought of as a women’s disease, osteoporosis also affects a significant number of men. And compared with the number of women and men who have osteoporosis, many more have low bone density. Even children aren’t immune. Yet it’s never too late — or too early — to do something about osteoporosis. Everyone can take steps to keep bones strong and healthy throughout life.

Osteoporosis Symptoms

Friday, September 8th, 2006

The osteoporosis condition can operate silently for decades, because osteoporosis doesn’t cause symptoms unless bone fractures. Some osteoporosis fractures may escape detection until years later. Therefore, patients may not be aware of their osteoporosis until they suffer a painful fracture. Then the symptoms are related to the location of the fractures.

Fractures of the spine (vertebra) can cause severe “band-like” pain that radiates around from the back to the side of the body. Over the years, repeated spine fractures can cause chronic lower back pain as well as loss of height or curving of the spine, which gives the individual a hunched-back appearance often called a “dowager hump”.

A fracture that occurs during the course of normal activity is called a minimal trauma fracture. For example, some patients with osteoporosis develop stress fractures of the feet while walking or stepping off a curb.

Hip fractures typically occur as a result of a fall. With osteoporosis, hip fractures can occur as a result of trivial accidents. Hip fractures may also be difficult to heal after surgical repair because of poor bone quality.

Osteoporosis Causes

Friday, September 8th, 2006

There is no single cause of osteoporosis. Our bodies constantly build new bone and remove older bone. In childhood, more bone is built than removed, and so the bones grow in size. After age 30 or 40, however, the cells that build new bone do not keep up with those that remove bone. The total amount of bone then decreases, and osteoporosis may develop as a result.

The average rate of bone loss in men, and in women who have not yet reached menopause, is small. But after menopause, bone loss in women accelerates to an average of one to two percent a year.

This is because after menopause, the level of the female hormone estrogen in a woman’s body sharply decreases. Estrogen protects the skeleton by helping the body’s bone-forming cells to keep working. After menopause, when the level decreases, some of this protection is lost.