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Osteoporosis Causes


What Is Osteoporosis



Osteoporosis is a disease that gradually weakens bones, so they become increasingly fragile and likely to break.

Osteoporosis causes bones, especially in the spine (backbone), wrists, and hips, to become brittle. The broken bones that result can lead to pain, height loss, difficulty moving around, a deformed backbone that curves forward (sometimes called "dowager's hump"), and, possibly, permanent disability and dependence.


Bone loss and broken bones



Bones become weak because of "bone loss." If you are "losing bone," it means you are losing some of the material that makes up your bones, so there is a drop in density, or thickness. The density of bone makes it strong - when the structure thins out and becomes less dense, the bone is more likely to break.

Some bone loss is normal, as we grow older. Nevertheless, severe bone loss -osteoporosis - is a disease that affects 20 million American women. The reason these women get osteoporosis is that hormonal changes during menopause can lead to severe bone loss. That's why all women past menopause should talk to their healthcare provider about their risk for osteoporosis.

Many women feel that osteoporosis will not affect them, since they exercise, get enough calcium, and have no symptoms. However, osteoporosis is a "silent" disease: Women may have it for years and not find out until they break a bone

Now is the time to ask your doctor about treatments and other steps you can take to help strengthen your bones and maintain your independence. Luckily, even if you've already had broken bones because of osteoporosis, it's not too late.


What Causes Osteoporosis



Osteoporosis is caused by an imbalance in the bone-building cycle of the body

Throughout life, our bodies are breaking down old bone and rebuilding new bone in a continuous cycle. Until our mid-30s, while bones are still developing, we gain bone by building more than we lose. After that, the process is usually in balance, so that the amount of bone lost is equal to the amount that's replaced. Nevertheless, this balance is disturbed during menopause, when hormonal changes cause us to lose bone faster than it can be replaced.


Menopause triggers an increase in bone loss



Menopause usually occurs around age 50. The major change involved in menopause is that our bodies begin to produce much smaller amounts of a hormone called estrogen. When estrogen levels drop, bone is lost faster. In fact, during the first five years after menopause, some women may lose as much as 25% of their bone density. In many women, this bone loss is severe enough to make bones weak and fragile. This is osteoporosis.


Other reasons for bone loss

Menopause is the most common trigger for osteoporosis, and this includes menopause due to surgery that removes the ovaries (where estrogen is produced). However, other diseases or factors, such as the use of certain medications can also cause bone loss. These medications include thyroid hormones, if the dose is too high and certain steroids, if they are taken regularly over a period of time. (Steroids are commonly used to treat asthma and arthritis.)

Osteoporosis may result in fractures of the spine, wrists, hips, and other bones. These broken bones can turn an active life into one of disability and dependence.


Osteoporosis can threaten your Independence



Getting shorter may be just the beginning

Because the bone has become weak, bone loss may lead to small breaks in the spine. These breaks can occur at any time, caused by something as minor as coughing or lifting a bag of groceries. As a result of the gradual accumulation of many of these small breaks, people get shorter.

Some people are completely unaware of this happening. They may only notice that their pants seem a bit too long or their clothes don't fit quite the same way. Few people understand that losing a couple of inches in height means that they may have osteoporosis. But eventually, they can have trouble moving around, feel a lot of pain, and even develop a deformed, curved back (known as "dowager's hump").


Broken wrists interfere with daily life

Anyone can break a wrist by falling with enough force, but people with osteoporosis can break their wrists much more easily, even by bumping into a table. In addition, a broken wrist can make even the simplest everyday task nearly impossible. Shopping, dressing, housekeeping, gardening, sewing, and golfing - all depend on strong wrist bones.


Broken hips can cause permanent disability

In elderly women who have lost bone over many years, a minor fall or an ordinary step off a curb can result in a broken hip. Women who survive a broken hip often become permanently disabled - over half need long-term care or must rely on others to get around.

Finding out more about osteoporosis now can go a long way toward helping to preserve an independent future for you tomorrow.

Because they feel no pain during the early stages of the disease, many women who are careful to get enough calcium and exercise think that osteoporosis are someone else's problem.


Who is at risk



You may be at risk of having osteoporosis if you are past menopause

Unfortunately, none of us can control hormonal changes at menopause or the effects those changes have on our bodies. That is why all postmenopausal women should talk to their healthcare provider about their risk for osteoporosis.

After menopause, as osteoporosis progresses over time, bone loss becomes more advanced. The result is often one or more broken bones, and chronic pain and disability can follow. It is estimated that as many as 40% of 50 year old women will suffer and osteoporosis-related broken bone at some time during their lives Getting diagnosed as early as possible is very important so steps can be taken to help limit bone loss at the earliest possible stage.


Menopause is the single most important cause of osteoporosis

Other factors that may add to the risk of osteoporosis include:

  • A family history of osteoporosis
  • Early menopause (before age 45)
  • A previous broken bone that might have been the result of osteoporosis
  • Caucasian or Asian descent
  • Thin or small build
  • Use of certain medications, such as steroids (commonly used to treat asthma and arthritis) and thyroid hormones (if the dose is too high)
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Not getting a great deal of exercise
  • Not getting enough calcium (or didn't as a child)

Remember: Menopause is the single most important cause of osteoporosis. Even if none of these other factors applies to you, you may still have osteoporosis.


Find out if you have Osteoporosis



The best way is to ask your doctor

Your doctor may be able to tell from certain signs and symptoms if you have osteoporosis. These can include back pain, height loss, a curving spine, a broken bone, or a history of broken bones. The disease may also show up on an X-ray taken for some other medical reason, although X-rays only reveal signs of osteoporosis when bone loss is already quite advanced.

Osteoporosis can be difficult to detect, especially since people in the early stages often have no symptoms. That is why, if you are at risk, your doctor may recommend that you have a "bone density test."


The value of bone density testing

Bone density tests are the most practical way to accurately measure the density of your bones.

Bone density tests are useful in helping your doctor diagnose osteoporosis, particularly in the early stages before broken bones occur. When tests are repeated over time, they can also help your doctor track your rate of bone loss.

There are several types of bone density tests available. They are fast, safe, and painless; and some take only a few minutes. Ordering a test is a good way for your doctor to find out for sure if you have osteoporosis. If you have any concern at all about osteoporosis, ask your doctor whether a bone density test is right for you.

Talk to your doctor today about lowering your risk of broken bones in the future. Here are some essential questions to ask your doctor or healthcare professional:


Don’t wait for a broken bone



How can I take better care of my bones?

Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about your bone health. There are several things that adult women can do to help slow down future bone loss, even if these things cannot cure or prevent osteoporosis.


Calcium may slow bone loss - but cannot stop it

Throughout your life, calcium plays an essential role in maintaining your bone health. It is particularly vital while your bones are still growing, generally until about age 35, when your body needs calcium to build strong bones. Calcium also has a special role in later life, when it can help slow bone loss. However, contrary to what many people think, calcium cannot totally stop bone loss, and cannot make your bones any stronger after menopause.


The role of weight-bearing exercise

Regular brisk walking, running, tennis, and low-impact aerobics can help increase your bone strength. Your doctor or healthcare professional can advise you about the exercise program that's right for you.


Should I get a bone density test?

Testing is the most practical way to accurately measure your current level of bone density, and having a test now can help your doctor predict your risk of broken bones in the future. Your doctor may also recommend follow-up tests in later years. Follow-up tests allow your doctor to compare your current and future results to find out how fast you are losing bone over time or to measure the effects of treatment.


What are my options for treatment?

If you have osteoporosis, make sure you ask about your treatment options. Unfortunately, many people do not find out all they can about treatment. They make the mistake of thinking that there is nothing they can do, or that taking calcium and exercising regularly are enough to cure osteoporosis or stop it from getting worse.


Read more about Osteoporosis and treatments that can help and decide for your self