Updated: 2019, Jun 26

Osteoporosis: Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Expert Views, Diagnosis and Treatment

By - Reviewed by CHD Team

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone disorder that causes the bones to become weak and fragile. Commonly known as the ‘brittle bone’ disorder, it increases the chances of bone fractures. It can also lead to complications in the joints and the spine. Women are more prone to osteoporosis because their bone density decreases drastically after the menopause.

Osteoporosis and osteopenia are two related concepts – indicating a gradual bone loss. Both the conditions are diagnosed by the screening of mineral bone density. However, while osteopenia implies simple bone loss, osteoporosis is a severe disorder that needs immediate medical attention.

Bones are constantly changing and regenerating themselves. When bones are not able to regenerate or renew themselves, it results in osteoporosis. Bones are made up of collagen, calcium, and some other vital minerals. When the struts in the mesh within the bone become weak, it causes the bone to become brittle. To be clearer, it means that the tissues within the bone are damaged, which makes the bone weak and fragile. Such bones can break under minimal pressure or minor falls.

What are the Types of Osteoporosis?

The major types of osteoporosis are:

  • Primary osteoporosis – It is the most common form of osteoporosis found in women. It is marked by accelerated loss in bone mass after the menopause. This is linked to reduced oestrogen and testosterone production after a certain age in women and men, respectively.
  • Secondary osteoporosis – It results from medical conditions like hyperthyroidism[1], hyperparathyroidism[2], and leukemia. It can also be caused due to heavy intake of corticosteroids that cause the bones to break.
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta – It is a rare form of osteoporosis that is acquired right from the birth.
  • Idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis – It is also a rare form of osteoporosis that occurs in small children aged between 8 and 14 years.

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What are the Causes of Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a typical bone disorder that affects the effectiveness of the skeletal framework of your body. Understanding the causes of this disease is important to devise methods for the treatment and prevention of this disease.

Some of these causes are:
Certain causes of osteoporosis are beyond human control, like heredity, age, sex, and ethnicity. Women are more prone to osteoporosis as compared to men, and heredity plays a role in causing osteoporosis.

Some other causes which form an important part of our lifestyle choice are:

  • Consumption of alcohol in excess
  • Smoking and boozing
  • Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa
  • Exposure to environmental pollutants like lead
  • Inactivity, lethargy, and perceived fatigue
  • A diet without essential nutrients and supplements like calcium, phosphate, vitamin D, and proteins.

Certain medical treatments and medicines can also result in osteoporosis. They are:

  • Corticosteroids/Glucosteroids[3] which are used to treat arthritis, asthma, and other disorders can cause osteoporosis.
  • Treatments for cancer, like chemotherapy or any other hormone replacement therapy that affects the level of sex hormones in the body, can cause this bone disorder.
  • Antiseizure or anticonvulsant medicines are taken continuously for a very long time can result in osteoporosis

What are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?

Although, symptoms of osteoporosis are not visible until quite late, it is important to be cautious about the same. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Fractures due to minor falls or injuries
  • Bone and joint pains without any reason
  • Stooping or height loss
  • Back pain and curve in the upper back

How to Diagnose Osteoporosis Pain?

Symptoms of osteoporosis are not visible easily, not until the disease has taken a good hold of your body. You need to be conscious about your health and increasing age. Any pain or discomfort in bones or joints should be brought to the notice of a doctor.

Osteoporosis can be diagnosed in a number of ways. Most of them are non-invasive and do not cause any pain. A common method of diagnosis is DXA that measures the mass of bone in the spine, the hip, and other parts of the body as well. Another method is the bone mineral density test. These tests detect a loss in bone mass. You can also go for osteoporosis screening in which your genetic and family disease history is considered while diagnosing your bone problem.

How Osteoporosis is Treated?

The treatment of osteoporosis involves five major elements. They are as follows:

  • Medication protects bones from further degeneration. Doctors generally prescribe bisphosphonates (like Fosomax and Boniva) for preserving the bones and bringing them back to their normal mass.
  • Exercise builds up the strength of bones and increases bone density.
  • A proper diet helps in overcoming the weakness and pain caused due to osteoporosis.
  • Supplements provide the vital nutrients that are lacking in the body. Some common supplements provided are Vitamin D, calcium, and phosphate tablets.
  • Safety and precaution ensures that you do not fall and fracture any of your bones. The whole idea is to prevent any kind of injury.

How to Prevent Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle, which would include-

  • An increased intake of calcium and calcium products
  • Engaging in regular exercise like stretching and weight lifting
  • Having a healthy diet with all the essential nutrients
  • Maintaining a body that is neither obese nor fragile
  • Avoiding alcohol, smoking, soda, or drugs and attending regular health checkups

Expert’s Opinion

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation statistics, around 12 million people have this bone disorder in the US. Doctors are now trying to reverse the process of osteoporosis. Although a medicine called Forteo is available in the market for this purpose, it is very expensive. This medicine is injected into the patient’s body. It is limited to only extreme cases.

Nevertheless, if you want to go for an affordable option you can always use a joint relief supplement such as Omega XL. This supplement could help improve your joints health thus preventing Osteoporosis.

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Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandri

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