Osteoporosis

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Osteoporosis facts

  • Osteoporosis is a condition of fragile bone with an increased susceptibility to fracture.
  • Osteoporosis weakens bone and increases risk of bones breaking.
  • Bone mass (bone density) decreases after 35 years of age, and bone loss occurs more rapidly in women after menopause.
  • Key risk factors for osteoporosis include genetics, lack of exercise, lack of calcium and vitamin D, personal history of fracture as an adult, cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, history of rheumatoid arthritis, low body weight, and family history of osteoporosis.
  • Patients with osteoporosis have no symptoms until bone fractures occur.
  • The diagnosis of osteoporosis can be suggested by X-rays and confirmed by tests to measure bone density.
  • Treatments for osteoporosis, in addition to prescription osteoporosis medications, include stopping use of alcohol and cigarettes, and assuring adequate exercise, calcium, and vitamin D.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by a decrease in the density of bone, decreasing its strength and resulting in fragile bones. Osteoporosis literally leads to abnormally porous bone that is compressible, like a sponge. This disorder of the skeleton weakens the bone and results in frequent fractures (breaks) in the bones. Osteopenia is a condition of bone that is slightly less dense than normal bone but not to the degree of bone in osteoporosis.

Normal bone is composed of protein, collagen, and calcium, all of which give bone its strength. Bones that are affected by osteoporosis can break (fracture) with relatively minor injury that normally would not cause a bone to fracture. The fracture can be either in the form of cracking (as in a hip fracture) or collapsing (as in a compression fracture of the vertebrae of the spine). The spine, hips, ribs, and wrists are common areas of bone fractures from osteoporosis although osteoporosis-related fractures can occur in almost any skeletal bone.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/29/2014

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Osteoporosis - Symptoms Question: What were your symptoms at the onset of your osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis - Treatment Question: What kinds of treatment, including medication or supplements, have you tried for your osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis - Share Your Experience Question: Do you or a relative have osteoporosis? Please share your experience.
Osteoporosis - Risk Factors and Causes Question: Do you have any risk factors for osteoporosis? What are they?
Osteoporosis - Lifestyle Changes Question: What lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, quitting smoking or alcohol) have you made to manage your osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis - Hormone Therapy Experience Question: Have you been prescribed hormone therapy to treat your osteoporosis? What was your experience?
Osteoporosis - Medications Question: What medications have been prescribed to treat your osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis - Complications Question: Have you had any complications related to your osteoporosis? If so, what were they?
Learn about osteoporosis prevention.

Osteoporosis Prevention

I'm a 35-year-old woman of average build and have a family history of osteoporosis. I exercise, don't smoke, and try to eat a calcium-rich balanced diet. What other steps can I take to prevent osteoporosis?

It sounds as though you are taking very good steps to prevent osteoporosis. Exercise has a wide variety of beneficial health effects. However, exercise does not bring about substantial increases in bone density.