Diseases & Conditions


OsteoporosisConsequencesDetectingMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatment

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition wherein the density of the bone decreases resulting in loss of its strength and causing it to be fragile.

Consequences of Osteoporosis

  • Osteoporosis can lead to significant pain, loss of ability to work temporarily leading to lost workdays, lowering of quality of life and disability.
  • A third of the patients suffering from osteoporosis fractures require long term nursing care.
  • A fifth of the women who suffer an osteoporosis fracture of the hip are likely to die as an indirect result within the next year.
  • A fifth of postmenopausal women who suffer from osteoporosis fracture of the spine are likely to suffer another within the next year.
  • Osteoporosis has been linked to increased risk of death.

Detection of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is typically detected by an X ray. In the X ray of a person suffering from osteoporosis, the bones appear to be thin and light compared to that of normal bones due to the loss of density. Unfortunately, by this stage, it is possible that at least 30% of bone density is already lost.

A Dual energy X-ray Absorptiometry Scan (DXA) is recommended by the national Osteoporosis Foundation for early and precise detection of osteoporosis.

Medication for Osteoporosis

Medications used for treating osteoporosis include:

  • Calcitonin (Calcimar),
  • Alendronate (Fosamax),
  • Raloxifene (Evista),
  • Risedronate (Actonel),
  • Zoledronate (Reclast),
  • Ibandronate (Boniva), and
  • Denosumab (Prolia)

Prevention of Osteoporosis

Prevention of osteoporosis typically includes lifestyle changes like exercise, quitting smoking, curtailing alcohol, consuming a calcium rich balanced diet, etc.

Risk Factors

The risk of developing osteoporosis can be increased by a number of factors, including some of the following:

  • Aging
  • Being female
  • Belonging to Asian or Caucasian race
  • Having small or thin body frame
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Consumption of alcohol in excess
  • Lack of exercise
  • Low amounts of calcium in diet
  • Poor general health
  • Poor nutrition
  • Malabsorption of nutrients by the gastrointestinal system
  • Low levels of estrogen in women
  • Low levels of testosterone in men
  • Chemotherapy
  • Amenorrhea
  • Chronic inflammation, due to factors like liver diseases or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Immobility
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Deficiency of Vitamin D
  • Prolonged use of certain medication like heparin, phenytoin, etc.

Symptoms and Signs of Osteoporosis

It is possible for osteoporosis to be present without the occurrence of any symptoms for a long time. This is because the symptoms of osteoporosis only show up when a bone has been fractured. Also, it is possible for some osteoporosis fractures to be undetected for years, if they do not cause any symptoms.

The most important symptom of an osteoporosis fracture is pain, which varies depending on the location of the fracture. The symptoms of osteoporosis are similar in both men and women.

Osteoporosis fractures of the spine can cause severe pain that spreads from the spine to the sides of the body. Repeated spine fractures can lead to permanent lower back pain and possible curving of the spine caused by the collapse of the vertebrae, which may lead to a hunched back appearance.

Osteoporosis fractures of the hip are also very common. They can be caused by trivial accidents and may heal poorly even after surgical intervention since the bone itself heals poorly.

Stress fractures or fractures that are caused during the course of normal activity are also common in osteoporosis. For instance, a person with osteoporosis may fracture an ankle while stepping off the stairs.

Treatment of Osteoporosis

Treatment of osteoporosis involves increasing bone density and strength and reducing bone loss. However, no treatment for osteoporosis is a complete cure. Prevention is the best option.