Osteoporosis is a term used to describe the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time. It is the most common type of bone disease and is highly prevalent among women age 50 and older.
Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to form enough new bone, when too much old bone is reabsorbed by the body, or both. Usually, the loss occurs gradually over time. Often, there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, which is why many individuals are not aware that they have osteoporosis until a fracture occurs.
The most common cause of osteoporosis in women is related to the reduction of estrogen at the time of menopause, which is why women over age 50 have a higher risk for osteoporosis.
Other causes of osteoporosis include:
- Being confined to a bed
- Chronic rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, eating disorders
- Corticosteroid medications and some antiseizure medications
- Vitamin D deficiency
Osteoporosis, or a related condition known as osteopenia, can be diagnosed using a bone mineral density test. Called densitometry (or DEXA scan), this imaging test measures bone density and helps your physician to predict your risk for future bone fractures.
There are many treatment options and lifestyle changes available for treating osteoporosis, such as:
- Calcium and vitamin D supplements
- Weight-bearing exercise
- Medications that help to slow down or stop bone loss
- Medications that help to strengthen bone and reduce risk of fractures
- Medications that help to control pain from the disease
- Strategies to help individuals minimize the risk of falls that might cause fractures
As with any disease, much focus is given to preventive strategies for reducing the risk for osteoporosis, such as improving calcium and vitamin D intake, regular weight-bearing exercise, and a healthy diet and lifestyle. For women at high risk for osteoporosis, there are medications available to help improve bone mass and reduce the risk of developing the disease
For more information about osteoporosis, please speak with your physician, or click here to locate a Hoag-affiliated physician near you.