Osteoporosis is a condition that results in thinning bones, which tend to fracture easily. Patients with this condition will suffer brittle and weak bones, often to the point that a minor fall or bending over can result in a fracture. This condition occurs when the process of bone matter regeneration, which occurs regularly, does not keep up with the natural depletion of old bone material.
In many cases, the symptoms may not be visible for a long time, with the disease remaining undiscovered until a fracture occurs. This is partly because osteoporosis develops gradually over many years.
- A gradual loss of height
- Sudden and severe back pain
- Bones that fracture very easily
- A stooping posture
Bones are usually in a constant stage of regeneration, where old bone tissue is broken down and new bone tissue is formed. Osteoporosis occurs when the regeneration of new bone tissue occurs at a much slower pace compared to the degeneration of the old bone tissue. Bone mass increases much faster in younger people, but this process slows down drastically as they age. The condition is likely to affect persons whose bone regeneration process peaks early compared to those whose bone regeneration process peaks later. While this condition affects women and men of all races, those at highest risk are Asian and Caucasian women who are past menopause.
Doctors can conduct a variety of tests in order to diagnose the condition, ranging from basic measurements to specialized procedures.
- Measuring bone density using a special X-ray machine. The machine consists of a scanner which passes over the entire body and scans the important sections including hip bone, spine and wrists. The process is painless and patients usually lie down on a padded table.
- Conducting bone density tests, which check the mineral content of several bones within the body. Examples of these include DEXA, SXA and QCT. Measuring patient height and comparing with previous measurements.
- Conducting a physical examination
- Performing blood and urine tests
The treatment of osteoporosis will usually depend on the risk of a fracture. A health practitioner can advise a patient on the most suitable treatment available.
- Those with a lower risk will usually be advised on changes to their lifestyle, diet, safety.
- Medication is used in some cases to help prevent fractures and manage the pain.