Osteoporosis is a disease that affects the bone. The condition makes bones weak and fragile and, consequently, highly prone to fractures. When observed under a microscope, a healthy human bone structure resembles a honeycomb with tiny pores. In bones with osteoporosis, the holes and spaces enlarge significantly than those in a healthy bone. The resulting bone has significantly reduced bone density and mass, making it spongy and brittle such that the slightest stress like bending or sneezing can cause a fracture or a break.
Causes and Risk factors
Because a bone is living tissue, it is continually being broken and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the rate at which tissue is broken down exceeds the rate at which it is replaced. As a result, the bone gradually loses mass and eventually becomes exceedingly brittle. Unknown to many people, osteoporosis is relatively common. More than 200 million people are approximated to have osteoporosis worldwide. In the United States, approximately 54 million people are estimated to have osteoporosis or at the risk of developing the condition.
Anyone can develop osteoporosis, but women are four times more likely to develop this condition than men. Additionally, older adults above the age of 50 are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis than young people. Two in every four women and one in every four men above the age of 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture before they die. Other factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing osteoporosis include smoking, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, long-term use of steroids and other forms of medications, and medical conditions like cancer, lupus, and arthritis.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis develops gradually and often goes completely undetected during the early stages of bone loss. Most people live with the condition for years before being diagnosed in later stages. However, once your bones lose significant bone mass and density, some of the typical signs and symptoms that you may develop include back pain resulting from a fracture, receding gums, weak and brittle nails, stooped posture, reduced grip strength, loss of height over the years, and increased cases of fractures and breaks over minor strains.
Prevention and Treatment
Some risk factors for osteoporosis like age, gender, and genetic composition cannot be controlled. However, you can control some aspects, like staying physically active, taking calcium and vitamin D rich foods or supplements, and not smoking. Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteoporosis. All treatment plans focus on strengthening the bones by slowing down the loss rate and triggering more bone tissue production. Once diagnosed with osteoporosis, your doctor will help you develop an appropriate treatment plan to manage the condition. Your doctor may recommend major lifestyle changes such as exercising and increased uptake of calcium and vitamin D. Your doctor may also prescribe osteoporosis medications like alendronate and risedronate, which reduce the loss of bone mass.
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