Osteoporosis is a dangerous condition with the capability to make your bones weak and brittle. In some cases, the bones of the patient become so weak that even coughing or bending over may give them fracture. Most of the times, the fracture from this disease happen in the hip, wrists of even the spine. Since bone is a living tissue that keeps breaking and reforming with time, but what happens in osteoporosis is that creation of new bone is disturbed.
There are no specific targets of this disease but it is more common in elderly people. There are some medications and workout routines that are intended to help you prevent bone loss with time.
When we are young, our body makes new bones in place of breaking old bones rather quickly. This makes our bone mass to keep increasing and it reaches it maximum usually by the time we hit 20. But as we start to get old, this process is reversed – reverse as in that the bone mass is lost faster than it was created. People often ask as to how likely they are to develop osteoporosis. The answer to that question depends partly on how much mass you put on in your childhood and adolescence. It is easy to understand that then it becomes as simple as that – more you bone mass you have, lesser your chances are to get osteoporosis.
There are a few risk factors involved in osteoporosis. Women are more likely to fall prey of osteoporosis as compared to men. Also, people with smaller body frames are at a higher risk of getting this disease. Doctors suggest that having someone in family with osteoporosis increases your chances of having it as well. Lastly, older you get, greater your chances become to catch it.
Osteoporosis Symptoms [i]
Osteoporosis does not generally show any symptoms in the early stages. However, the signs and symptoms may start to show when the disease is at moderate or severe level. The symptoms include:
- Collapsed vertebra or a fracture causing sever back pain
- A permanently stooped posture
- Loss of height with the passage of time
- Easier to fracture bones than one can expect
It is to be noted that having a fracture is not guaranteed for osteoporosis patients. There are a few measures that every patient can take to reduce the risk of an injury or a fracture.
It would be a good idea to check your home for any hazards one may trip over. It could be as simple as something such as trailing wires and making sure that carpets are not slippery. Also, make sure to have rubber mat in front of the washroom and get your eyesight and hearing ability checked regularly. Doctors also recommend older people to wear special protectors on their hip to be safe in case of a fall.
Diagnosis of osteoporosis is done with the help of a machine that uses X-rays to determine the amount of minerals in the bones. It is a painless test which takes a minute or two and you have to lie down on a table and let the scanner scan your body.
The choice of treatment is usually based on the results of bone density test. Usually an evaluation of chances is calculated on the patient’s chances of breaking a bone in the next 10 years. Depending upon the condition of the patient, the doctors may not prescribe any medication and rather focus on attending to risk factors for bone loss. Bisphosphonates is the top choice of doctors in most cases, if it comes to giving the medications. It includes Ibandronate and Alendronate etc. These work over the span of 6 to 12 months and you may need to keep taking them for up to 5 years. [ii]
It is recommended to start taking these medicines with the advice of doctors only. There may be side effects such as nausea, heartburn like symptoms and abdominal pain etc. However, these can be avoided if taken as per doctor’s directions. The patients may also feel fever, headache and muscle sores for up to 3 days after taking these.
Hormone related therapy
For women, estrogen is a good way to maintain bone density, especially if started right after menopause. One downside of estrogen is that it may increase the risk of blood clots, breast cancer and possible heart diseases. For this very reason, the doctors prefer using this treatment in younger women. An alternative way is to use Raloxifene which has the same benefits as estrogen but with much fewer side effects. However, the patients may experience hot flashes.
Parathyroid hormone (teriparatide)
It is the hormone that our body produces naturally and its objective is to normalize or manage the calcium in the bone. These are the kinds of medicines that are usually given via an injection and they stimulate the cells to create new bones. The functionality of parathyroid hormone is different from other medicines in a way. While other medicines reduces the rate at which the bones get thin, parathyroid hormone work to increase the bone density. Nonetheless, doctors use this treatment only for people with a very low bone density. It is also the last resort of the doctors when no other treatment is working on the patient. [iii]
Lifestyle and home remedies
There are few lifestyle changes and suggestions that may help you reduce your chances of getting osteoporosis. These include:
- Smoking is a known factor for causing bone loss. Stop smoking in order to reduce your chances of getting osteoporosis
- Excessive intake of alcohol may decrease bone formation to a significant extent. Not to mention the chances of you falling when drunk.
- Wear low-heeled shoes with sturdy soles to have a good grip on the ground as you walk. It is also recommended to install grab bars in your house to get a hold on to them in case of fall.