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Osteoporosis

  • What is Osteoporosis?

    Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose their strength and thickness due to a loss of minerals (eg. calcium) that the body has difficulty replacing. The bones, especially in the hip, spine and wrist, lose their density, becoming more fragile and at risk of breaking.

    Bones are living tissues that are continuously broken down and replaced. In the early years of life, more bone is made than broken down, therefore any bone loss is quickly replaced. Our bone growth is completed at around 30 years old and as we get older, more bone is lost than the body can replace.

  • Several risk factors contribute to the development of osteoporosis.

    • Non-modifiable factors include:
      1. A strong family history of the disease
      2. Gender – women experiencing menopause have a higher risk because the rate of bone loss increases as the level of oestrogen decreases. Risk also increases if they have a hysterectomy (surgical womb removal) before the age of 45.
      3. Race – Caucasians and Asians face greater risk
    • Modifiable risk factors include:
      1. A diet that lacks vitamin D and calcium
      2. Being underweight
      3. Previous bone injury, long-term immobility, medications and illnesses, such as kidney, liver and thyroid diseases
  • Osteoporosis has few specific symptoms, thus it is known as the 'silent disease'.

    It often goes unnoticed until it reaches an advanced stage. Symptoms at this stage include:

    • Back pain
    • Height loss over time
    • Hip, spine and wrists fracture more easily
  • Treatments aim to increase bone density and reduce the risk of bone fracture. Your doctor will suggest the most suitable treatment for you, which may include:

    • Bisphosphonates – increase bone density and strength by repairing weakened bones. This treatment is useful in managing osteoporosis in postmenopausal women
    • Calcium and vitamin D supplements – usually given alongside an osteoporosis medicine to provide the body with enough calcium and vitamin D to maximise the benefits of the prescribed medicine
    • Healthy diet
    • Regular safe exercises
    • Selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMS) ‒ medicines that mimic the action of oestrogen, thereby reducing bone loss caused by low oestrogen levels. This treatment is targeted at treating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women
    • Bone fracture, especially in the wrists, hip, pelvis and back
    • Disability and loss of independence due to bone fracture
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