Osteoporosis – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
Osteoporosis literally means porous bones. It is a disease where there is too little or weak bone to the point that it is highly prone to unexpected and sudden fractures. Sadly it is very common for women of age and gets diagnosed after severe symptoms like a fracture.
Last month my mother had a sudden fracture from a really minor fall. I knew this is not something common and there is an underlying disease. I took her to the best Orthopedic Surgeon in Karachi I could find and sadly my doubt was right. She had Osteoporosis. It obviously came as a great shock for me and my family so I started to research more about the disease. Here is a summary of what I found:
Bone is composed of minerals held together by thick collagen fibers, mostly calcium salts. Our bones have a dense, strong outer layer that is clearly seen on x-rays (termed as cortical or compact bone). The is a smoother, spongy bone mesh (trabecular bone) and within that, there is a honeycomb-like texture. The gaps in the honeycomb pattern grow wider when a bone is weakened by osteoporosis, and the average density is smaller, which is why the bone is much more prone to fractures.
Our bones are in a constant process of reconstruction and destruction. But as we age, the process of renewal slows down. As in we lose more bone mass than we gain. It is said that a person is on their peak bone mass around the age of 30. After which it only decreases.
There are various factors that affect the causes of the disease. Some of them are:
Factors that are out of our control like age, gender, race, family history, and body structure are out of our control. But they very much contribute to the cause. For example, people with old age, especially women, with a history of osteoporosis in the family, and with a small bone structure have a high risk of getting osteoporosis.
If you take low calcium intake especially at your young age, you can fall prey to this deadly disease. Other than that underweight people are also at high risk.
Your Medical History And Medications
Patients of diseases like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disorders, kidney or liver disorders, lupus, inflammatory bowel, and multiple myeloma are more prone to osteoporosis. Similarly, people who take corticosteroid medications, orally or by injection are more likely to get affected.
A lowered level of sex hormones is linked with bone weakness. For example, the lack of estrogen in women at menopause is one of the leading causes of osteoporosis. Similarly, too much thyroid hormone and overactive parathyroid and adrenal glands are also proven to cause bone loss
People who are inactive, consume a lot of alcohol, or smoke excessively are more prone to osteoporosis.
The thing with this disease is that the symptoms won’t show until the damage has been done. But once the thinning of bones happens, symptoms start to arrear over time. The common symptoms include unexpected bone fracture without any major accident, back pains, stooped back, and loss of height over time.
In the most serious cases, patients suffer from spine or hip fractures. The hip fracture even results in disability or even a high risk of death within the first five years of the injury.
Osteoporosis might be dangerous but it sure can be prevented. Here are some tips:
Calcium and Vitamin D
It is really important to consume 1000 mg of calcium per day from the age of 18-50 years. After that, you must consume 1200 mg of calcium per day. However, it should not increase by more than 2000 mg per day. Your first preference should be fulfilling the calcium requirement by naturally calcium-rich foods. But in case it seems difficult, add calcium supplements to your diet. Similarly, it is important to consume 600 to 800 IU of vitamin D as it plays a vital role in calcium absorption.
Exercising can strengthen your bones while slowing down bone loss. It will help your bones retain their mass no matter when you start and from how small you start from.
In short, just remember prevention is better than treatment. Hence, make sure that you always keep your diet in check. Also, invest in some kind of physical activity more often. And do not forget to get yourself checked if you see the signs.
Osteoporosis is a loss of bone mass leaving them porous and thin. The causes might be low calcium intake, hormonal issues, inactive lifestyle, gender, etc. It can be prevented by a balanced diet and good physical activity.