Bone is a living tissue and consists of a soft inner layer that has an appearance similar to honeycomb and a dense outer layer known as the cortical. Your bones contain collagen and a number of minerals including calcium, and they have the capacity to renew themselves, but their ability to do this can vary depending on your life stage and general health.
As you age, it's normal to experience some bone loss, as bone renewal slows down. However, if your bones become fragile and the soft inner layer develops large gaps and becomes spongy, you are at an increased risk of developing a bone fracture or break. This condition is called osteoporosis and there are several factors that can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis as you age. Here's an overview of the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for osteoporosis:
Causes And Symptoms
It's not always possible to tell why an individual has developed osteoporosis, but there are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing this condition. If you have a history of taking corticosteroids, you may have experienced impaired calcium absorption during treatment, and this can impact bone regeneration. These drugs are often prescribed to treat inflammatory conditions, such as bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and while taking steroids, you should take calcium and vitamin D supplements to protect your bones.
Women can develop osteoporosis as a result of a decrease in their oestrogen levels, and this can occur during the menopause or if the ovaries are removed. Weight-bearing exercise helps develop bone density, so if you have a sedentary lifestyle, you may find you lose calcium from your bones at a faster rate than someone who walks, hikes or runs regularly. Heavy drinking and smoking can also inhibit calcium absorption.
There aren't typically any symptoms of osteoporosis in the early stages of its development. Some sufferers only find out they have the condition when they require diagnostic imaging after breaking or fracturing a bone. However, some people become aware there is problem with their bone health before a major injury occurs, and this is due to developing several hairline cracks on their bones, which can cause bone pain.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Osteoporosis is diagnosed by carrying out a DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan, which is carried out while you are fully clothed and is often recommended for those who have at least one risk factor for developing this condition or have experienced a low-impact fracture.
Treatment for osteoporosis focuses on trying to slow down bone loss and reduce your risk of fractures. Your doctor may work with you to modify your diet and exercise regime to ensure you are getting enough vitamin D and calcium and engaging in regular weight-bearing exercise. You can also reduce your risk of developing fractures from falling by building your muscle strength and using balance exercises to strengthen your core. Additionally, hormone replacement therapy can be used to increase oestrogen levels in women, and there are a number of prescription medications available, such as denosumab and raloxifene, that can improve bone density by interfering with the cells that break down old bone.
If you're concerned about your bone health, schedule an appointment with your doctor. They can discuss any risk factors you have for developing osteoporosis and arrange for you to have a DEXA scan, if required.