What Is Osteoporosis?

Key Facts Osteoporosis is a long-term (chronic) disease that makes bones more prone to breakage due to minor injuries or falls. Osteoporosis causes bones to become brittle and more prone to fracture even after a minor injury or fall. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become weak and more likely to break. If you have osteoporosis, you are more likely to break a bone with a minor injury or a minor fall.

If you have osteoporosis, your bones may break more easily than usual, especially if you’ve been in an accident such as a fall. If you have osteoporosis, simply falling to the ground (from or below a standard chair height) is often enough to break a bone. People with osteoporosis are at high risk for bone fractures or broken bones while performing routine activities such as standing or walking. In people with osteoporosis, the bones become porous and weak, which increases the risk of fractures, especially in the hips, vertebrae, and some peripheral joints such as the wrists.

Osteoporosis can lead to fracture and destruction of the bones of the spine, so that some people with osteoporosis are shortened and unable to stand. It develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a sudden fall or impact causes a bone to break. Osteoporosis, which means “porous bones,” is a condition in which bones gradually thin and weaken, putting them at greater risk of fractures. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much, produces too little bone, or both.

Osteoporosis is often called a hidden disease because you can’t feel your bones getting weaker. Diagnosis “Osteoporosis — a decrease in bone density and weakening of the bones — is an asymptomatic disease that causes no symptoms until a fracture occurs,” says Deborah Sellmeyer. Osteoporosis itself has no symptoms; its main consequence is an increased risk of fractures. Osteoporosis is a systemic skeletal disease characterized by a decrease in bone mass, which destroys the microarchitecture of bone tissue, resulting in weak bones that increase the risk of fractures.

About 54 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis and low bone mass, which increases the risk of developing osteoporosis. Over two million women in England and Wales are believed to suffer from thinning bones (osteoporosis). In the United States, millions of people already have osteoporosis or are at high risk due to low bone mass. Each year, more than 500,000 people are hospitalized for bone fractures (bones that break after falling from or below a height) due to osteoporosis.

Many fractures caused by osteoporosis are painful fractures of the hip, spine, wrist, arm, and leg, usually after a fall. While most fractures are caused by falls, osteoporosis can weaken bones, making them more prone to fractures, such as when you cough or hit something. Causes of Osteoporosis Bone loss is a normal part of aging, but some people lose bone at a much faster rate than usual. Thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) mainly affects older people, but can affect people of any age.

All men and women are at some risk of developing bone thinning (osteoporosis) as they age, especially after age 60. Short, thin people are at higher risk for osteoporosis because they lose less bone to build than heavier and larger people. Women are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis and osteopenia (bone density is not yet considered osteoporosis) because women’s bones are generally smaller and less dense than men’s.

Screening can also show if you have low bone mass, which means your bones are weaker than normal and osteoporosis may develop. If your doctor thinks you may have or are at risk of developing osteoporosis, they will likely suggest that you take a bone density test. People who have had a typical osteoporotic fracture, such as a wrist, spine, or hip fracture, should also be treated (sometimes even with normal bone density results).

Treatment If you have osteopenia or osteoporosis, your doctor will recommend preventive measures to slow further bone loss and reduce your risk of fractures. Treatment can also slow the rate of bone loss in osteoporosis. If you have osteoporosis, lifestyle changes and treatment can prevent further bone loss and lower your risk of bone fractures.

If you have osteoporosis, the risk of fractures (ruptures) from high-intensity exercise and poorly executed strength training may outweigh the bone-building benefits of these exercises. The increasing destruction of your body’s bones can lead to weaker bones and osteoporosis if proper preventive or treatment measures are not taken. Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle—so weak that a fall and even mild stress, such as bending over or coughing, can cause a fracture.

Osteoporosis can be familiar, so you should talk to your doctor if you have a close relative with the condition, or if you’ve ever had a broken or fractured bone due to a minor injury. Osteoporosis is diagnosed based on your medical history, a physical examination by a doctor, and a bone mineral density test. The most important risk factors for osteoporosis are older age (for both men and women) and female gender; Estrogen deficiency after menopause or surgical removal of the ovaries is associated with a rapid decrease in bone mineral density, while in men, a decrease in testosterone levels has a comparable (but less pronounced) effect.

Osteoporosis associated with pregnancy and lactation (PLO) A temporary decrease in bone density is normal during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but fractures during this period are extremely rare.

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