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Osteoporosis is a condition that causes the bones to weaken. As a result, the bones become fragile and more prone to fractures. The condition develops slowly. You may not even know that you have osteoporosis until a bone fracture occurs. People with osteoporosis suffer mostly from breaks in their hips, wrists, and even spinal bones.
The breaks can, however, happen to other bones. With osteoporosis, a cough or even a sneeze is enough to partially collapse a bone in the spine or break a rib. Osteoporosis is not painful until you get a fracture. However, several broken bones in the spine can lead to long-term pain and stooped posture.
Types of Osteoporosis
There are two types of osteoporosis, characterized by the disease’s progression stage:
This is the stage that occurs before osteoporosis. At this stage, a scan will show that you have lower bone density than most people your age. The density is, however, not so low that it can be classified as osteoporosis. Osteopenia doesn’t always necessarily result in osteoporosis. Bone strengthening treatments ensure that osteopenia doesn’t become osteoporosis.
This stage occurs when osteopenia isn’t managed. The bones get weaker and thinner with time. Your risk of developing fractures thus increases. With severe osteoporosis, a strong cough, sneeze, or fall results in bone fractures. The condition also leads to loss of height as the bones in the spinal cord continue to break. A person will also experience chronic neck and back pain.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
In the early stages, osteoporosis has no visible symptoms. As the bones continue to weaken, you may experience symptoms like:
- Back pain caused by a collapsed or fractured spine
- Stooped posture
- Gradual loss of height
- Bones breaking more easily than normal
Diagnosis of Osteoporosis
A doctor determines your risk of bone fracturing using programs like Q-Fracture or FRAX. In most cases, a bone density exam, or DEXA exam, is used. It is a short 10 to 20-minute procedure that measures your bone strength. This is then compared to the bone strength of a person your age. The result is calculated using a standard deviation known as a “T score.”
Regular X-rays only show severe disease progression. If you are at risk of osteoporosis, you need to go for regular bone density tests. Women who are above 65 also need these tests frequently since women start to lose bone density after menopause.
How to Treat Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis treatment involves treating or preventing broken bones. Most of the time, this involves taking bone-strengthening medications. A doctor will decide whether you require treatment based on your risk of fractures. It will also depend on factors like sex, age, and your bone density scan results.
Sometimes, treatment may include taking mineral and vitamin supplements. Supplements and exercises help prevent osteoporosis in the future. Speaking of exercising, focus on resistance training, balance, and weight-bearing exercises.
How to Manage Osteoporosis
If you have osteoporosis, there are certain measures that you can take to reduce the risk of fracture.
- Prevent Falls: If you have osteoporosis, the last thing you want is tripping hazards in your home. Remove any trailing wires, secure your rugs and carpets, and put rubber mats under sinks and in the shower. If you have hearing or sight problems, wear special protectors to prevent falls.
- Exercise and Eat Healthy: Exercising can be a good way of strengthening your bones. At the same time, eating healthy foods can go a long way in halting the disease progression.
- Seek Support: Living with osteoporosis is not easy. To cope with the condition, you can talk to other people living with the disease. A psychologist or trained counselor can also help you cope better.
- Take Time to Recover From a Fracture: If you get a bone fracture, don’t rush through the recovery process. Take your time and follow the doctor’s advice to make sure that your fracture heals well.
- Manage The Pain: Sometimes, you may need medication to cope with the pain. Painkillers will do. Other treatment options include heat treatment, cold packs, and relaxation techniques like yoga.
- Working: Having osteoporosis doesn’t mean that you can’t work. Continue working and remain active. The only thing you need to ensure is that you are minimizing your risk of injuries and falls at your workplace.
- How can you prevent osteoporosis? Eating foods that contain bone-strengthening nutrients will help prevent osteoporosis in the future. Exercises like aerobics, jogging, weight-lifting, and walking are great for strengthening bones.
- Are there medical conditions that can increase your risk of osteoporosis? People with kidney and liver disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, multiple myeloma, and IBS are more prone to osteoporosis.
- Does low bone density lead to osteoporosis? Bone density usually peaks during a person’s late 20s and starts to weaken as they age. Also, your bones will break down faster than they rebuild as you get older. This is what determines the onset of osteoporosis.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!