What is Osteoporosis? How can I prevent Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a generative condition affecting the bones. Bones start becoming brittle and lose their strength. People who have been diagnosed from osteoporosis will be at greater risk of sustaining a fracture, than those who do not suffer from this condition.

Bones form the skeleton and supporting framework of the human body. They are not hollow, but are solid structures from within. Adequate quantities of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D are essential for maintaining good health of the bones.

Causes

There is no single cause which will lead to development of osteoporosis. Multiple factors can stimulate degeneration of bones which will eventually lead to osteoporosis. Some of the common causes of osteoporosis are mentioned below:

  • Nutritional deficiencies:

Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus are essential for growth and development of bones and for other body functions. If levels of calcium in the blood reduce, structural integrity of bones cannot be maintained. This leads to loss of strength and weight of bones.

  • Hormonal disturbance:

Once menopause occurs, the levels of estrogen (an important hormone controlling the female reproductive system) drop drastically. This has been observed as a cause of osteoporosis. Estrogen is known to have beneficial effect on the health of bones. Calcitonin is a hormone produced by thyroid gland, which regulated calcium levels in the blood. Disorders of thyroid gland lead to reduced production of this hormone, which in turn reduces calcium levels in the blood.

  • Advancing age:

Aging is a natural and normal process. With advancing age, there is progressive degeneration of all body tissues; bones are no exception to this. It has been observed that with increasing age, osteoporosis is more likely to develop.

Presenting symptoms:

  • Pain in the back, arms, legs could be felt.

  • The patient could present for treatment of fracture. On further questioning a history of recurrent and easily occurring fractures could be detected.

  • Due to loss of bony matter, there could be reduction in the patient’s height. This regression is very slow and may be noticed over a period of months. If the vertebral bones are affected, the patient may develop stooped posture.

Investigations:

  • Blood tests:

Low levels of Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus are indicative of osteoporosis.

  • X-Ray:

X-Rays done in a person presenting with the risk factors mentioned above, can reveal reduction in the intensity of the opaque shadows of bones, if osteoporosis is present.

  • DEXA (Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry) scan:

It is also a type of X-Ray which measures the density of all bones in the patient’s body. Reduced bone density is suggestive of osteoporosis.

If any of these investigations provides a positive diagnosis, the patient will be advised to udnergo following treatment.

Treatment

  • Medicines:

Medicines to maintain levels of calcium and phosphorus are prescribed to patients. Additionally, analgesics (pain killers) may be needed to alleviate the pain. Hormonal treatment will be needed in case of menopausal women or for patients with thyroid disorders.

  • Diet:

Food items which fulfill the required quota of calcium and phosphorus should be consumed in adequate quantity. Milk, eggs, bananas, sapota (chikoo), ragi are rich sources of calcium an phosphorus.

  • Exercise:

Indulging in physical exercise strengthens the muscles which make up for the weakened bones. This will prevent complications like fractures. Care should be taken to avoid activities which put a lot of strain on joints.

  • Adequate exposure to sunlight:

Sunlight is the only known source of vitamin D. It s not present in adequate quantities in food items. It is advisable for everyone to allow some exposure to sunlight daily. This helps in maintaining levels of vitamin D to optimum.

Osteoporosis can lead to complications if left neglected. Therefore it is advisable to start treatment and follow it promptly to keep the condition controlled.

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