Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disorder in which bones become thinner and lose their strength. Individuals with osteoporosis are at higher risk for breaking bones. The most common osteoporosis-related fractures occur in the wrist, hip and spine.

Hip fractures can be difficult to heal. They reduce the person's ability to move around. This can lead to complications and other health problems, and often contribute to premature death.

Osteoporosis is more common in women than in men, largely because of hormonal changes that occur during menopause. Most people with osteoporosis don't know they have it until they have a bone density test or break a bone.

Diagnosing osteoporosis

Sometimes osteoporosis is diagnosed during a regular physical exam when you turn out to have lost some height. This happens because silent fractures of the spine cause it to compress or curve. To verify a diagnosis, an x-ray may be taken to see if your bones are less dense than they had been.

The best way to diagnose osteoporosis (or its precursor, osteopenia) is with a bone density test. The main way to measure bone density is with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). This test takes 10 to 15 minutes and is painless. It uses minimal amounts of radiation and generally is done on the spine and hip.

Blood and urine tests may be recommended to identify a cause of osteoporosis, such as a thyroid problem. For most people, however, there is no clear cause of osteoporosis other than aging.

Treating osteoporosis

Osteoporosis can be treated several ways. If it is mild, daily weight-bearing exercise can help build bone mass. Getting more calcium from food, and possibly getting calcium and vitamin D from supplements, can also build bone or at least prevent more bone loss. A number of medications have also been developed to slow bone loss and build bone. Although bone mass usually does not return to normal after treatment, the risk of fracture may decrease dramatically.

Preventing osteoporosis

Preventing osteoporosis is far better than trying to treat it. You can help prevent osteoporosis by

  • eating foods rich in calcium, such as low fat dairy products, sardines, salmon, green leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified foods and beverages.
  • getting more vitamin D from the sun or a supplement
  • doing weight-bearing exercise like brisk walking every day
  • not smoking
  • not drinking too much alcohol

The outlook for people with osteoporosis is good, especially if the problem is detected and treated early. Bone density, even in severe osteoporosis, generally can be stabilized or improved. The risk of fractures can be substantially reduced with treatment.

Osteoporosis Articles

Why you need a bone density scan

To help avoid a fracture, women over 65 and those at risk for osteoporosis should have a baseline bone density scan and a FRAX score. How often they need additional scans depends on their fracture risks. The doctor can use their risks, as well as the results of their DXA scan, to determine whether they need treatment with osteoporosis drugs and then to determine whether treatment is working. (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Glucosamine and chondroitin benefits?

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) offer more relief than glucosamine and chondroitin for people suffering from osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. However, NSAIDs also have adverse effects that glucosamine and chondroitin do not have. (Locked) More »

Two osteoporosis drugs better than one

A combination of two osteoporosis drugs-denosumab (Prolia) and teriparatide (Forteo)-increases bone mineral density in women at risk for fractures better than either drug alone. (Locked) More »

Top 5 ways to reduce crippling hand pain

The most common causes of hand pain include osteoarthritis, nerve conditions, and tendinitis. There are a number of ways to help manage the pain, retain hand function, and avoid surgery. Doctors recommend a splint to stabilize the position of the fingers, thumb, or wrist. An injection of a corticosteroid into a joint can also reduce hand pain, as can a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Applying heat can loosen hand stiffness. Applying cold is effective for hand pain that results from activity. Exercises and stretches can help reduce pain and stress on the hand joints. More »

Easy way to stop knee arthritis from progressing

Soda appears to be associated with the progression of knee osteoarthritis in men. One explanation for this may be that soft drinks are taking the place of healthier food and drink choices such as milk and dairy products, fruit juice, fruit, and a variety of vitamins and nutrients. Another theory is that soft drinks may contain phosphoric acid, which has been shown to interfere with calcium absorption and to contribute to imbalances that lead to additional loss of calcium. People who have knee osteoarthritis are advised to reduce soda intake to less than five drinks per week.  (Locked) More »

Osteoporosis update for men

With aging comes a greater risk for osteoporosis: a decline in bone strength that puts you at risk of fractures. Men lose bone strength at an older age than women. Osteoporosis is less common in men at all ages. A man can take steps to prevent bone loss and harmful fractures and may choose to be screened for bone loss if his doctor thinks he can benefit. (Locked) More »

Bisphosphonates may help men with osteoporosis

The commonly used bone-strengthening drugs called bisphosphonates may provide the same level of benefit for men as they do for women. It appears the drug zoledronic acid (Reclast) significantly reduced spinal fractures in men with osteoporosis. (Locked) More »