What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis occurs when the bones become fragile and brittle, which can lead to a higher risk of bones breaking. This condition occurs when bones lose minerals such as Calcium faster than the body can replace them, resulting in lower bone density.

What are the risk factors for Osteoporosis?

Several factors can increase the chances of developing Osteoporosis. These include:

  • Increased age: People over 50 are more likely to develop Osteoporosis, though it is possible to develop this condition earlier in life
  • Gender: Women are more likely than men to develop Osteoporosis due to the rapid hormonal changes that occur during menopause
  • Family History: A family history of bone breaks occurring easily, loss of height with age or diagnosed Osteoporosis can indicate increased risk
  • Calcium and Vitamin D levels: Vitamin D, which is gained through exposure to the sun, is necessary for your body to absorb Calcium. A lack of Calcium can contribute to reduced bone density
  • Steroids and other medications: Prolonged use of corticosteroids can reduce the density of the bones, as can other medications commonly used in epilepsy, breast cancer, prostate cancer and depression
  • Low hormone levels
  • Early menopause
  • Significant intake of caffeine
  • Lifestyle factors: Low levels of physical activity, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and being under or overweight can impact bone density
  • Other illnesses: Conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis, Coeliac Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, thyroid conditions, and rheumatoid arthritis can increase risk.

How does Osteoporosis present?

Osteoporosis is often referred to as “The Silent Disease”. This is because often, somebody with Osteoporosis will not know until they experience a fracture. Some symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Broken bones from minor bumps or falls
  • Loss of height of 3cm or more

If you think you may be at risk of developing Osteoporosis, see your doctor.

How is Osteoporosis diagnosed?

Osteoporosis is diagnosed using a bone density scan (DXA). This is a non-invasive test that can be organised through your GP. Men and women over 50 may need a bone density scan if any of the above risk factors are present. Heel ultrasounds are a less common method of testing for Osteoporosis, however they are not recommended, as they do not give an accurate representation of overall bone density and strength.

How is Osteoporosis treated?

Treatment includes lifestyle modification, such as dietary changes, exercise and falls prevention. Your Physiotherapist can assist you with an exercise program and falls prevention. Your doctor may also recommend medication and supplements to manage your Osteoporosis.

What is the prognosis for Osteoporosis?

It is never too late to treat Osteoporosis. Treatment can halt bone loss and significantly reduce the risk of fractures. Once you have had one fracture, the risk of having more increases significantly.

Can Osteoporosis be prevented?

In order to prevent Osteoporosis, try to:

  • Do regular weight bearing and strength training exercises
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet with calcium rich foods
  • Avoid smoking
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption
  • Absorb enough Vitamin D

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