Last Updated on Thursday, 20 May 2010 23:56
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Osteoporosis affects nearly three million people in the UK. It's a condition that causes the bones to become thin and weak.
Osteoporosis is characterized by reduced bone mineral density, which weakens the bone architecture. Bones grow weak and brittle. Even the mildest stress can cause a fracture.
Osteoporosis is a common health condition in the aging population. Postmenopausal patients are most prone to this condition. In the UK, one in three women and one in twelve men over the age of 50 are reported to have a high risk of fracture due to weakened, brittle bones. Your risk of developing this condition depends on the bone mass you acquire between 25 and 35 years of age and the rapidity of bone loss later in life.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition of weak bones which are prone to fracture. The term osteoporosis literally means "porous bones". The weak bones may become so brittle that they may fracture under the mildest stress. Osteoporosis is a common bone disease, which affects both men and women, usually with increase in age. The National Osteoporosis Society estimates that osteoporosis affects 3 million postmenopausal women in the UK.
Causes of Osteoporosis
Bones usually grow weak due to low levels of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals. Lifestyle choices, various diseases and use of some drugs also result in osteoporotic bones. Osteoporosis commonly affects women after menopause when rapid bone loss occurs in the absence of hormone production.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
You may have no obvious symptoms in the early stages. You may feel a dull pain in the back or neck as the disease progresses. The first indication of the disease is usually a fracture. Hence, osteoporosis has been labelled a "silent thief".
Diagnosis & Treatment of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is usually diagnosed only after a fracture occurs. Patients with fractures need to consult a specialist. If you have broken a bone as a result of osteoporosis then you are more likely to break another. The aim of all drug treatments is to lower your risk of future fractures and there are a range of effective medications that do just that. Some are available only from specialists.
There are several types of treatments for osteoporosis and often a combination will be more appropriate. Treatments include, bisphosphonates which slow the rate of bone dissolving, strontium ranelate, raloxifene. There are also a number of specialised treatments that are less commonly used and your doctor can discuss these with you if required.
Management of osteoporosis requires changes in lifestyle such as healthy eating habits to ensure higher intake of calcium, and regular exercise. Calcium supplements are often prescribed.
Self-Help Tips & Preventive Measures
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise, healthy eating habits, avoiding alcohol and smoking, and ensuring exposure to plenty of sunshine can help you prevent osteoporosis. Those with osteoporosis should take adequate measures to prevent accidental injuries.