Osteoporosis

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Catherine Burt Driver, MD
    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.

View the Osteoporosis Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideOsteoporosis Pictures Slideshow: Are Your Bones at Risk?

Osteoporosis Pictures Slideshow: Are Your Bones at Risk?

Prevention of hip fractures in elderly people with osteoporosis

Elderly people with osteoporosis can decrease their risk for hip fracture by maintaining muscle strength, coordination, and balance with exercise programs. Throw rugs and animals in pathways of the home should be minimized or eliminated. Good lighting is essential for safe walking to the restroom both day and night.

Additionally, for those elderly people who use canes for walking, etc., it is essential that the rubber tips of the canes are regularly checked for any signs of wear. When this rubber wears through it presents a serious risk of causing the cane (and, therefore, the person) to slip, which can result in serious bodily harm -- including hip fracture.

Controversy

Currently, it is not clear as to how long patients with osteoporosis being treated with bisphosphonates should continue the bisphosphonate treatment. Many doctors are interrupting treatment for a "drug holiday" off of the drug as it may not be necessary after five to seven years. Guidelines for duration of treatment of osteoporosis with bisphosphonates are being developed.

What are complications of osteoporosis?

The primary complication of osteoporosis is bone fracture. This may lead to no symptoms or be associated with severe, intractable pain. Recurrent fractures are common and can lead to deteriorating skeletal structure. Occasionally, fractures of the spinal vertebrae can push bone into adjacent nerves and/or spinal cord. This can require neurosurgical intervention. Osteoporotic vertebral fractures can also be relieved by vertebroplasty (kyphoplasty) procedures whereby the collapsed vertebra is inflated by a balloon and a cement (methylmethacrylate) is injected to reform structure to the vertebra.

Repeated vertebral compression fractures can lead to severe deformity of the spine of the chest (kyphosis) that can compromise breathing along with cause extreme loss of height. This can increase the risk of problems with any respiratory infections.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/11/2016

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