By Dr. Ankur Singhal, Orthopaedics
Osteoporosis is a disease concerning the bones. Decreased strength of the bones poses a risk for them to break. Osteoporosis is very common among older people, whose bones become brittle with age. The most common bones affected by this disease include the backbone, forearm bones and the hip bone.
There are no such symptoms until a broken bone occurs. The bones weaken to such an extent that a break may happen in case of very minor stress. Usually, a broken bone is followed by chronic pain and the disability to perform daily activities. Surveys show that 15% of white people in their 50s and 70% of white people in their 80s are affected by osteoporosis.
What are the common causes and symptoms of osteoporosis?
- May occur due to the lowering of the ‘peak bone mass index’.
- In women, bone loss increases after menopause stage due to lowering down of estrogen level.
- Also occurs because of another disease or previous treatments. This includes alcoholism, surgical ovary removal, hyperthyroidism, anorexia or any form of kidney disorder.
- Anti-seizure medicines, chemotherapy, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and taking of performance-enhancing drugs like steroid increase the bone loss rate.
- Lack of regular exercise may lead to osteoporosis.
- Osteoporosis is defined as a ‘bone density of 2.5 standard deviations below than that of a young adult’.
- Osteoporosis is hereditary in nature. People having a family history of osteoporosis are at a high risk of getting the disease.
- More than thirty genes are linked with osteoporosis development.
- If you have had a fracture before, you are at a risk of a repeat.
- Early menopause in women is also responsible for osteoporosis.
- People with a small structure and body build are at a risk of getting osteoporosis.
- Protein and vitamin deficiency makes your bones weak and makes you vulnerable to osteoporosis.
- Phosphoric acid present in soft drinks is another threat, which may cause the disease.
- People suffering from malnutrition are likely to get osteoporosis.
- Over replacement of L-Thyroxine may lead to osteoporosis.
- Use of heparin and warfarin for a long time decreases the bone density.
Who is at risk of osteoporosis?
All men and women have some risk of developing ‘thinning’ of the bones (osteoporosis) as they become older, particularly over the age of 60. As mentioned above, women are more at risk than men. The following situations may also lead to excessive bone loss and so increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. If you:
- Are a woman who had the menopause before 45 years of age
- Have already had a bone fracture after a minor fall or bump
- Have a strong family history of osteoporosis.
- Have a body mass index (BMI) of 19 or less (that is, you are very underweight)
- Have irregular periods
- Have taken, or are taking, a steroid medicine (such as prednisolone) for three months or more
- Are a smoker
- Have an alcohol intake of more than four units per day
- Lack calcium and/or vitamin D (due to a poor diet and/or little exposure to sunlight).
- Are mostly inactive
Ways To Treat Osteporosis:
Osteoporosis in women can be treated using Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). The therapy makes use of either a combination of progestin and oestrogen or simply, oestrogen. However, it is possible that certain combinations have side-effects that might give rise to other medical conditions. Therefore, proper consultation with an orthopedist is an essential pre-requisite so that the condition of osteoporosis as well the side effects may be addressed before proceeding with Hormone Replacement Therapy.
There are a number of medications that can be used which have long-term effects on osteoporosis. However, the schedule for intake of these medicines should be followed diligently. Failing to adhere to the schedule could lead to serious complications. For example, the intake of Risedronate medications (prevent bone loss) should be scheduled once every month, failing which can cause ulcers in the food pipe. Raloxifene has effects which are similar to oestrogen but does not exhibit any serious side effects. Teriparatide can be used to treat osteoporosis in people who have a high risk of suffering from bone fractures.
Tips To Help you manage and prevent it-
- Medications: Zoledronic acid, Ibandronate, Risedronate and Alendronate are some of the widely used medicines to combat the risks of fracture. However, these medicines carry considerable side-effects, for instance adnominal pain, nausea or a heart-burn like sensation. Ipriflavone, a laboratory manufactured product, in combination with calcium can be used as an alternative medicine to inhibit bone loss and alleviate pain.
- Quit smoking: Smoking escalates the rate of bone loss and the chances of sustaining another fracture.
- Refrain from excessive alcohol intake: Alcohol meddles with one’s bone formation. Also, excessive alcohol intake might cause one to feel tipsy and thus fall down, aggravating risks of injuries and fractures even more.
- Be careful while walking: Choose low or flat heeled footwear with soles that do not slip. Watch your step. Be careful with rugs, slippery surfaces, electrical cords or other scattered substances which might make you trip over and fall. Install ‘grab bars’ in your house so that you can hold on to them if you suddenly feel unsteady on the feet.