What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is usually a condition of ageing; where bones become thinner and thus more likely to break (fracture). Less commonly, there are other causes for osteoporosis such as hormonal conditions (early onset menopause, thyroid or parathyroid conditions), renal failure, dietary and lifestyle issues or rarely genetic syndromes.
Risk factors for osteoporosis
There are various risk factors for osteoporosis, including:
- Age and being female are the major risk factors for osteoporosis.
- Family history of fractures; particularly early onset fractures before 50 years.
- Lack of estrogen in women: this can be due to irregular / absent periods, premature menopause or at menopause where there is significantly. increased loss of bone
- Lack of testosterone in men: from pituitary or testicular disorders
Other hormonal issues: over active thyroid, hyperparathyroid disease or diabetes
- Gastrointestinal disorders: Coeliac disease or malabsorption
- Diet: low in calcium or vitamin D
- Lifestyle factors: excess alcohol, smoking, lack of weight bearing exercise or excessive exercise resulting in lack of regular periods
- Eating disorders; anorexia nervosa results in low body weight and loss of estrogen
- Medications: Oral corticosteroids such as prednisone for autoimmune conditions or asthma for prolonged periods can result in bone fragility without actual decrease in bone density.
- Chronic medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes
How is osteoporosis diagnosed?
Your risk of fracture can be assessed by a bone mineral density test (BMD). This test can be useful to predict the future probability of a fracture. If you have already had a fracture, the BMD is useful to guide specific therapy to prevent fractures in the future.
How is osteoporosis treated?
Osteoporosis treatment involves living a healthy, active life; with regular weight bearing exercise that incorporates the spine, hip and wrist. Your doctor can refer you to specific classes that may improve balance and prevent future falls.
Depending on your risk of fracture, specific medication can be taken to prevent fractures. Talk to your endocrinologist about the available therapies and their benefits.