Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, or when the body makes too little bone. As a result, the bones become weak and may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from something as simple as sneezing or a minor bump.
Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” Viewed under a microscope, healthy bone looks like a honeycomb. When osteoporosis occurs, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are much larger than in healthy bone. Osteoporotic bones have lost density or mass. As this process occurs, bones become weak and are more likely to break. If you’re 50 or older and have broken a bone, ask your doctor or healthcare provider about a bone density test.
Osteoporosis is very common, around 54 million Americans may have osteoporosis and low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for fracture. Studies also suggest that nearly one in two women and up to one in four men aged 50 or older will break a bone due to Osteoporosis. As we get older we have increased risk for developing osteoporosis. Additionally, family history, smoking, Caucasian decent, and being female are all risk factors.
People with Osteoporosis are typically asymptomatic, but once your bones have become weak, you might have signs and symptoms that include:
- Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Loss of height over time
- A stooped posture
- A bone fractures occur much more easily than expected
Your bones are in a constant state of renewal — new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone and your bone mass increases. After the early 20s this process slows, and most people reach their peak bone mass by age 30. As people age, bone mass is lost faster than it’s created.
How likely you are to develop Osteoporosis depends partly on how much bone mass you attained in your youth. Peak bone mass is somewhat inherited and varies also by ethnic group. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have “in the bank” and the less likely you are to develop Osteoporosis as you age.
Treatment for osteoporosis focuses on slowing down or stopping the mineral loss, increasing bone density, preventing bone fractures, and controlling the pain associated with the disease. Treatment is considered preventative. Unfortunately, in older age groups a hip fracture caries very risk of mortality.
Osteoporosis treatment may involve medication along with lifestyle change.
Bisphosphonates are the most common medications prescribed for osteoporosis treatment, other newer medications include Prolia, Tymlos, Forteo, and Evenity.