Osteoporosis is a skeletal disease in which the bones gradually become brittle and more susceptible to fractures, particularly in the spine, hip or wrist, due to the loss of calcium.
Osteoporosis is called the “silent disease” because bone loss can occur without symptoms. If detected, it can be treated. One way to determine whether you are at risk of osteoporosis is to have a bone mineral density (BMD) test to measure the amount of calcium in your bones. Many people have low bone density and do not know it.
Signs and Symptoms
In the early stages of bone loss, you typically experience no pain or other symptoms. However, once the bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, you may begin to experience symptoms including back pain, loss of height or fractures of the vertebrae, wrists, hips or other bones.
A number of factors can increase the likelihood that you will develop osteoporosis, including:
- Gender. Fractures from osteoporosis are about twice as common in women as they are in men.
- Age. The older you get, the higher your risk of osteoporosis. Your bones become weaker with age.
- Race. You are at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you are white or of Southeast Asian descent. Black and Hispanic men and women have a lower, but still significant, risk.
- Family history. Osteoporosis runs in families. Having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at greater risk, especially if you also have a family history of fractures.
- Frame size. People who are exceptionally thin or who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk of osteoporosis, because they have less bone mass to draw from as they age.
- Tobacco use. Tobacco use contributes to weak bones. However, researchers do not yet understand the relationship of tobacco to osteoporosis.
- Lifetime exposure to estrogen. The greater a woman’s lifetime exposure to estrogen, the lower her risk of osteoporosis.
- Eating disorders. Women and men afflicted with anorexia nervosa or bulimia are at higher risk of low bone density in their lower backs and hips.
- Corticosteroid medications. Long-term use of corticosteroid medications, such as Prednisone, Cortisone, Prednisolone and Dexamethasone, can have damaging effects on bones.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Research published in 2007 shows lower bone mineral density among both men and women who use SSRIs compared with those not taking these anti-depressants.
- Other medications. Long-term use of the blood-thinning medication Heparin, the cancer treatment drug Methotrexate, some anti-seizure medications, diuretics and aluminum-containing antacids also can cause bone loss.
- Breast cancer. Post-menopausal women who have had breast cancer are at increased risk of osteoporosis, especially if they were treated with chemotherapy.
- Low calcium intake. A lifelong lack of calcium plays a major role in the development of osteoporosis.
- Medical conditions and procedures that decrease calcium absorption. Stomach surgery, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, vitamin D deficiency, anorexia nervosa and Cushing’s disease can put you at greater risk for osteoporosis.
- Sedentary lifestyle.
- Excess soda consumption. The link between osteoporosis and caffeinated sodas is not clear, but caffeine may interfere with calcium absorption, and its diuretic effect may increase mineral loss.
- Chronic alcoholism.
Should You Have the Test?
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that you have a BMD test if you’re a woman, if you are not taking estrogen and if any one of the following conditions applies to you:
- You’re older than age 65.
- You’re post-menopausal and have at least one risk factor for osteoporosis, including having fractured a bone.
- You have a vertebral abnormality.
- You use medications that can cause osteoporosis, such as Prednisone.
- You have type 1 diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, thyroid disease or a family history of osteoporosis.
- You experienced early menopause.
Bone Mineral Density (BMD) Testing
A BMD test can detect osteoporosis, predict your risk of fracture and monitor effects of treatment. Arrange for a BMD screening exam through your doctor or call to schedule an appointment at Health Medical Imaging, 9115 S. Cicero Avenue, Oak Lawn IL, 708-852-9400.