Baton Rouge Clinic Health Library
Diseases & Conditions:
What you need to know about Osteoporosis
Published: 05, 2005
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by loss of bone mass or “thinning bones”, disruption of bone architecture, and increased skeletal fragility. It is estimated that 1.3 million osteoporotic fractures occur yearly in the United States. These fractures are associated with significant disability and increased mortality. Osteoporosis is a “silent disease” because there are no early symptoms of the disease. Frequently patients are diagnosed only after they have sustained a fracture. Loss of height or an abnormal curvature of the upper spine called a “dowager’s hump” may indicate that vertebral fractures have already occurred.
What is the difference between osteoporosis and osteopenia?
These terms distinguish varying severity of bone thinning. Both are associated with increased risk of fracture. Osteopenia is moderate bone loss. Osteoporosis is severe bone loss and is associated with a higher risk of fracture.
What are the risk factors for developing osteoporosis and osteoporotoic fracture?
- personal history of fracture as an adult
- history of osteoporosis in a first-degree relative
- low body weight (less than 127 lbs.)
- current cigarette smoking
- being a woman
- estrogen deficiency (menopause before age 45)
- white race
- advanced age
- lifelong low calcium intake
- impaired vision
- recurrent falls
- poor health/frailty
- chronic steroid use
What can be done to prevent osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures?
Screening is key to early detection and treatment can prevent fractures. Adequate calcium intake (1500 mg daily in postmenopausal women) and adequate vitamin D (800 IU daily) can reduce the rate of bone loss. Weight bearing physical activity, smoking cessation, and fall prevention have also been shown to decrease the risk of fracture.
How is osteoporosis diagnosed?
The presence of low bone mass is usually determined by radiologic testing. Ultrasound, DEXA, and CT scans can be used to measure bone density. These tests are painless. Plain x-ray films often suggest osteoporosis. Blood tests are also frequently used to measure bone turnover markers and to exclude underlying medical conditions that may be associated with osteoporosis. DEXA is the most commonly used test to diagnose and evaluate treatment of osteoporosis.
What types of treatments are available for osteoporosis?
There are several options for treatment. A group of drugs Lara M. Falcon, M.D. Internal Medicine called bisphosphonates (alendronate and risedronate) are frequently used to treat osteopenia and osteoporosis. Other options include calcitonin, hormone replacement therapy, and raloxifene. A new medicine called Forteo, which is an analog of a parathyroid hormone, is now available for severe cases of osteoporosis. Decisions on which therapy to use is best made by you and your physician on an individual basis.
Lara M. Falcon, MD
Specializing in Internal Medicine
[ View Author Bio ]
The Baton Rouge Clinic, AMC, offers this information as a courtesy service. Please remember that medical knowledge is always evolving and we cannot represent that any of our information is absolutely current. Please consult a physician before taking any medical action based on information gathered from this or any website.