Osteoporosis is a relatively common condition that can weaken the bones, leading to a higher risk of fractures, even from falls that would not normally have caused a break. Osteoporosis tends to occur in older people because bones become less dense as part of the ageing process. Bone density begins to decline after the age of about 35, with the loss being particularly quick in women during the first few years after menopause. Although everyone will experience some degree of density loss, this does not always lead to osteoporosis.
Anyone who has a family history of osteoporosis, who has an inflammatory condition or a disorder of the endocrine system, or who has been a heavy drinker or a smoker, will be at higher risk. Illnesses or medications that affect the absorption of nutrients such as calcium or otherwise weaken the bones will also increase the chances of developing osteoporosis.
Courtsey: National Osteoporosis Society
Often people do not know that they have osteoporosis until they suffer a fracture. Many people first find out that they have this condition after seeking treatment for a fractured wrist, hip or vertebrae, since these are the bones that are most likely to be damaged in someone who has osteoporosis. However, fractures in other bones can also happen as a result of this condition.
A broken bone does not necessarily indicate that someone has osteoporosis, but if it happened as a result of only a minor fall or injury, then the doctor treating it may suspect that the bones could be unusually weak.
If osteoporosis is suspected, either after a fracture or because your doctor believes that you may be at risk, the diagnosis will need to be confirmed. This will usually be done using an assessment technique such as FRAX, but it could also involve a DEXA scan to check your bone density. This will give your doctor a clearer picture of the risk of fractures.
The results of these assessments will help the doctor to decide on the best treatment plan if it is determined that you do indeed have osteoporosis.
The treatment of osteoporosis places a strong emphasis on preventing falls and fractures. Making changes around the home to remove obstacles can be very important, and it can also be helpful to have regular hearing and sight tests.
Although it is important to be careful, exercise can also be beneficial for many people with osteoporosis, as it can improve balance and strengthen the bones and muscles. Doctors and physiotherapists can advise patients on the best ways to exercise safely with osteoporosis.
It can also be helpful to ensure that a healthy diet containing plenty of calcium and vitamin D is being eaten, and in some cases, medication may be prescribed to help strengthen the bones. The right medication will depend upon the patient's age, their bone density, whether there have been any previous fractures, and other risk factors. A rheumatologist will often be needed to treat any fractures that do occur, as well as to monitor the treatment and ensure that it is working well.
Contact Dr Krishnan Baburaj to make an appointment for your detailed clinical assessment and optimal treatment options.