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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 being broken down and replaced. In the early years of life, more bone is made than is broken down, and therefore any bone loss is quickly replaced. Our bone growth is completed at around 30 years of age and as we get older, more bone gets lost than the body can replace.

  • There are many risk factors that contribute to the development of osteoporosis.

    • Non-modifiable factors include:
      1. A strong family history of the disease
      2. Gender. A woman’s risk increases around menopause because the rate of bone loss increases and the body’s 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)
    • Modifiable risk factors include:
      1. A diet that lacks vitamin D and calcium, and being underweight.
      2. Previous bone injury, long term immobility, medications and illnesses (eg. kidney, liver, and thyroid diseases).
  • Osteoporosis may cause no specific symptoms, thus it is known as the “silent disease”.

    It often goes unnoticed until it reaches an advanced stage. The symptoms of this stage include:

    • Back pain
    • Height loss over time
    • Hip, spine and wrists fractures more easily
  • There are successful treatments that aim at increasing bone density and reducing the risk of bone fractures. Your doctor will suggest the appropriate treatment for you, and these include:

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