Osteoporosis is a disease of porous bones where the bones are weakened and bone mass decreased, leading to a greater risk of fractures. It is a disease better avoided than treated, and it could be fairly advanced and even irreversible before palpable osteoporosis symptoms become manifest.
Experts advise that it is best not to wait for osteoporosis symptoms to manifest before taking action against it; to keep it at bay and to delay its onset so far as possible.
Know your risk factors
A female of advanced age is at more risk of getting osteoporosis. Women are more likely than men to have it and postmenopausal women who have lower levels of estrogen (the hormone known to have a protective impact on bone density and health) are most prone.
Women of Asian and European extraction are more at risk, particularly if they have a family history of osteoporosis symptoms. Shorter statured individuals are also seen to be at higher risk of the bone disease.
Smoking, excess alcohol consumption sedentary lifestyle, nutritional deficiencies (in particular calcium and vitamin D), eating disorders, exposure to cadmium and lead, and diets containing phosphoric acid (found in many soft drinks and beverages) are also known risk factors for the disease.
Many medical conditions such as some endocrine disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, liver or kidney disease can also contribute to osteoporosis risk.
Recognize osteoporosis symptoms
Unfortunately the symptoms of osteoporosis are not easy to detect. The early part of the disease may be completely asymptomatic and even later may have mild or non-specific symptoms only.
Pain is the most commonly noted osteoporosis symptom, most typically dull pain in the muscles or bones. The lower back and neck may hurt and as the disease progresses, the diffuse pain could become sharper and more sudden. The pain can worsen with activity or when weight is put on the bone. Osteoporosis pain can be of the lingering type that extends over many months.
The most worrying osteoporosis symptoms are fractures and very often the person may not even be able to recall what caused the fracture. A broken bone may result in osteoporosis patients whereas other with normal bone density may only sustain a bruise.
Other symptoms of osteoporosis include the typical stooped over posture that occurs due to spinal compression. A person may also find that they are becoming shorter as a result of bone loss.
Importance of Bone density testing
Because the symptoms of osteoporosis may be few or absent altogether, bone density testing assumes great importance. All women over the age of 65 or menopausal women who are known to have osteoporosis risk factors should get tested. Women over 50 who have had previous fractures can also benefit from testing.
Regardless of whether osteoporosis symptoms are visible or not, women who have had to take medications such as corticosteroids, anti-seizure medications, breast cancer medications, aromatese inhibitors, thyroid hormones, or glucocorticoids should undergo bone density testing to check for bone loss. Also women with eating disorders, significant loss of height, early menopause, and hormonal imbalances should get tested.