DefinitionOsteoporosis is a disease marked by decreasing bone mass and density, making bones weak and brittle. If left unchecked, it can lead to fracture . Any bone can be affected. Fractures of special concern are of the hip , spine , and wrist .
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CausesOsteoporosis is caused by an imbalance between bone loss and bone formation (known as bone remodeling). After age 30, bone loss occurs more quickly. Many factors over the course of a lifetime can influence bone remodeling.
Risk FactorsOsteoporosis is more likely to occur if full bone mass was not achieved during your bone-building years. It is more common in women than in men. Other factors that may increase your chance of osteoporosis include:
- Increasing age
- Low weight
- Alcohol abuse
- History of falls
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Postmenopausal status
- Caucasian, Asian, or Hispanic ethnicity
- Certain health conditions, such as:
- Certain medications, such as antidepressants, corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, or long-term use of heparin or proton-pump inhibitors
- Low hormone levels (low estrogen levels in women, low testosterone levels in men)
- Inactive lifestyle
- Certain restrictive diets that may result in a deficit of calcium or vitamin D
- Too little sunlight (the effect of sun on the skin is a primary source of vitamin D)
- Certain cancers, including lymphoma and multiple myeloma
SymptomsIn most cases, people with osteoporosis remain symptom-free until there is a fracture. In those that do have symptoms, osteoporosis may cause:
- Severe back pain
- Loss of height with stooped posture— kyphosis
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite or feeling full soon after eating
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DiagnosisYour doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Central (preferred) or peripheral dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA)
- Quantitative ultrasound (QUS)
- Central or peripheral quantitative CT scan (QCT)
TreatmentThe treatment and management of osteoporosis involves lifestyle changes and medications. Although osteoporosis is highly preventable, it cannot be cured. Treatment focuses on reducing the incidence of fractures and slowing bone loss.
Lifestyle ChangesNutritionDecrease your intake of alcohol. Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is in:
- Dairy products
- Green leafy vegetables
- Canned fish with bones
- Calcium-fortified products
- Floors—Remove all loose wires, cords, and throw rugs. Minimize clutter. Make sure rugs are anchored and smooth. Keep furniture in its accustomed place.
- Bathrooms—Install grab bars and non-skid tape in the tub or shower.
- Lighting—Make sure halls, stairways, and entrances are well lit. Install a night light in your bathroom. Turn lights on if you get up in the middle of the night.
- Kitchen—Install non-skid rubber mats near sink and stove. Clean spills immediately.
- Stairs—Make sure treads, rails, and rugs are secure.
- Other precautions—Wear sturdy, rubber-soled shoes. Keep your intake of alcoholic beverages to a minimum. Ask your doctor whether any of your medications might cause you to fall.
MedicationsCertain medications can help prevent bone loss, increase bone density, and reduce your risk of fractures. These may include:
- Medications with estrogenic effects
- Other medications, such as parathyroid hormone or bone resorption inhibitors
PreventionBuilding strong bones throughout your early years is the best defense against osteoporosis. Getting enough calcium, vitamin D , and regular exercise can keep bones strong throughout life. To help reduce your chance of osteoporosis:
- Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
- Perform weight-bearing exercises
- Live a healthy lifestyle—avoid smoking and drink alcohol only in moderation (2 drinks per day for men, 1 drink per day for women)
- If you are a postmenopausal woman at high risk for bone fractures, medications may be appropriate to prevent osteoporosis
NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center
National Osteoporosis Foundation
Women's Health Matters
Clinician's guide to prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.nof.org/files/nof/public/content/file/950/upload/523.pdf. Accessed August 27, 2014.
Ho-Pham LT, Nguyen ND, et al. Effect of vegetarian diets on bone mineral density: a Bayesian meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90:943-950.
Khosla L, Melton LJ. Clinical practice: osteopenia. N Engl J Med. 2007;356:2293-2300.
Making a diagnosis. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Available at: http://nof.org/articles/8. Accessed August 27, 2014.
Osteoporosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 10, 2014. Accessed August 27, 2014.
Osteoporosis causes and risk factors. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 17, 2014. Accessed August 27, 2014.
Sambrook P, Cooper C. Osteoporosis. Lancet. 2006;367:2010-2018.
10/6/2006 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Cockayne S, Adamson J, Lanham-New S, et al. Vitamin K and the prevention of fractures: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:1256-1261.
5/16/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Qaseem A, Snow V, Shekelle P, Hopkins R Jr, Forciea MA, Owens DK; Clinical Efficacy Assessment Subcommittee of the American College of Physicians. Screening for osteoporosis in men: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148:680-684.
1/30/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Loke YK, Singh S, Furberg CD. Long-term use of thiazolidinediones and fractures in type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. CMAJ. 2009;180:32-39. Epub 2008 Dec 10.
12/29/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Hippisley-Cox J, Coupland C. Predicting risk of osteoporotic fracture in men and women in England and Wales: prospective derivation and validation of QFractureScores. BMJ. 2009;339:b4229.
6/4/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: FDA approves new injectable osteoporosis treatment for postmenopausal women. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm214150.htm. Updated April 23, 2013. Accessed August 27, 2014.
- Reviewer: Fabienne Daguilh, MD
- Review Date: 06/2014
- Update Date: 01/12/2014
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