Reports From National Arthritis Meeting 2004

Dr. Shiel Offers Perspectives Of Interest On Osteoporosis From
2004 Annual Scientific Meeting Of The American College Of Rheumatology.


Osteoporosis is a disorder of the skeleton in which bone strength is abnormally weak. This weakness leads to an increase in the risk of breaking bones (bone fracture).

Normal bone is composed of protein collagen and calcium. Osteoporosis depletes both the calcium and the protein from the bone, resulting in either abnormal bone quality or decreased bone density. Bones that are affected by osteoporosis can fracture with only a minor fall or injury that normally would not cause a bone 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, and wrists are common areas of osteoporosis-related bone fractures, although fractures can also occur in other skeletal areas, such as the ribs.

Osteoporosis can be detected by measuring the bone density. Bone mass (bone density) decreases after age 35 years, and decreases more rapidly in women after menopause. Risk factors for osteoporosis include genetics, lack of exercise, lack of calcium and vitamin D, lack of estrogen, cigarettes and alcohol, and certain medications. Patients with osteoporosis have no symptoms until bone fractures occur. The diagnosis can be suggested by x-rays and confirmed by tests that measure the thickness of the bone (bone density tests). Treatments for osteoporosis include stopping alcohol and cigarettes, weight-bearing exercise, calcium, vitamin D, estrogen, and medications to increase bone density.