What is Osteoporosis?

Derived from the Greek phrase meaning "bone holes," osteoporosis is a disease that reduces the density of the bones. The bones become brittle and weak, making a person more prone to fractures.

What is Osteoporosis and What Causes It?

Osteoporosis occurs when bone density lowers dramatically due to a decrease in calcium in the body. There are several factors causing this decrease.

  • A person has not consumed enough calcium or vitamins over his or her lifetime.
  • A woman has undergone menopause. The lack of estrogen strips calcium from the bones, causing them to become porous and brittle.
  • A person has a familial history of osteoporosis, since the disease is genetically linked.

What Are the Risk Factors?

A number of risk factors exist for osteoporosis. Some are avoidable, such as calcium intake and exercise. Others, however, are not changeable, such as age, menopause, and genetics.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

Most people with osteoporosis are not aware they have it. Many times, the first sign of the disease is a broken bone or stress fracture. However, there are warning signs and symptoms of osteoporosis.

  • A person may begin to notice himself or herself becoming shorter. This happens when the bone density decreases in the spine.
  • A person may begin to experience lower back aches and pain.
  • A person may develop curvature of the spine, resulting in stooping while standing or walking.

What is Osteoporosis Prevention?

While many of the risk factors are uncontrollable, there are ways to help lower the occurrence or damage caused by osteoporosis.

  • A person should eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. If he or she is not able to do so, supplements are often prescribed.
  • A person can exercise regularly. This helps to strengthen the bones and surrounding support tissue, such as tendons and ligaments.

What is Osteoporosis Treatment?

While there is no cure for osteoporosis, treatment options exist after being diagnosed. One or more of these options are usually added to any preventive measures a person has taken.

  • A person may begin a regimen of osteoporosis medications. These medicines come in pill form, as well as injections.
  • Post-menopausal women are often given estrogen replacement therapy.

If a person has any risk factors or has any suspicion osteoporosis is present, he or she may want to talk to his or her doctor. The physician will also be able to answer any remaining concerns about the question, "What is osteoporosis?" Prevention, early detection, and treatment are key to preventing broken bones and stress fractures.

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