Osteoporosis is essentially the thinning of the internal structure of your bones. Our bones are made up of a hard protective outer layer and a finely structured internal mesh of bone. When this mesh of bone weakens, it results in a low bone mass and causes the entire bone to become more fragile. The bone is much more vulnerable to breaks due to minor bumps or falls if it is in this state. One in every two women, and one in every five men, over the age of 50 are likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Causes and symptoms
Osteoporosis occurs when the body’s bone mass falls to below 2.5 standard deviations of the normal density of young adults. The condition is further classified as established osteoporosis when a fracture occurs as a result of the condition. The body’s bone mass reaches its peak in your thirties or forties, and the majority of people will see a loss of bone mass in the years following.
The most common causes of osteoporosis include:
- Nutritional factors, such as malabsorbtion syndromes and digestive abnormalities
- Hormone excesses, such as hyperthyroidism, hyperprolactinaemia and excess glucocorticoid
- Hormone deficiencies, such as male and female hypogonadism and vitamin D deficiency
- Inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease
- Renal bone disease
Due to today’s longer-living population, more women than before – including men – are suffering from osteoporosis. Symptoms of this disease include body aches and pains, as well as risks such as immobility, disability and costly doctors’ visits. In the long-term, multiple bone fractures as a result of osteoporosis can lead to chronic pain and often the bones don’t heal properly, leading to deformities of the back such as a stooped spine. Hip fractures often result in permanent walking disabilities.
The best treatment for osteoporosis is prevention. By screening for osteoporosis early on, you can learn to recognise the symptoms of osteoporosis and make the necessary lifestyle changes before it affects you.
People with a greater risk of developing osteoporosis, such as smokers, those with a family history of the disease and those with a low calcium diet should start making changes as early on as their early thirties. Osteoporosis symptoms cannot be determined at this stage, but preventative measures can be taken for those in a high risk group. Stopping smoking, eating a calcium rich diet and doing lots of weight-bearing exercises can all help to decrease your osteoporosis risk.
If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis symptoms at an early stage, it’s recommended that you start a course of osteoporosis treatment as soon as possible to protect yourself from the disease. A good option is a course of hormone replacement therapy to minimise the risk of future bone fractures and breaks.
Tests and treatment
Symptoms of osteoporosis are likely to develop between the ages of 35 and 55. While the signs of the condition aren’t yet visible on the outside, early-warning symptoms are now present. X-rays can be taken to detect the condition, although this isn’t the most effective osteoporosis detection method available.
Other internal tests, such as photo absorptiometry and computed tomography, can be more effective at noticing the early symptoms of osteoporosis. Another easy way of osteoporosis detection is to take a urine osteoporosis test. This test can easily be taken at your doctor’s surgery, or in the privacy of your own home.
TestDiagnostics offers an accurate and confidential urine-based osteoporosis test which can detect the levels of deoxypyridinoline (DpD) in the urine. DpD is a major indicator of the existence of osteoporosis in the body.
- What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that develops mainly in people over the age of 50, although symptoms can be present in people as young as 35. The disease causes the body’s bone mass to weaken, leading to bone fractures. Bone’s can crack or break with minor bumps or falls due to the weakened bones in the body.
- How does osteoporosis develop?
This condition can develop as a result of age, smoking, inherited osteoporosis and a calcium-deficient diet, all of which increase the rate at which the body’s bone mass decreases. If the bone mass decreases by more than 2.5 standard deviations less than normal, the bones weaken and can fracture easily.
- What are the main causes of osteoporosis?
The main causes of this disease include renal bone disease, malabsorbtion syndromes, hyperthyroidism, vitamin D deficiency and rheumatoid arthritis.
- How is it diagnosed?
It is very difficult to diagnose osteoporosis early on as symptoms are minimal. If you suspect you may have osteoporosis or are at risk, you can take a number of tests to prevent it from getting worse such as x-rays or urine-based lab tests.
- What are the main risk factors for developing osteoporosis?
If you smoke, are post-menopausal, have lost height recently, have any chronic diseases such as thyroid disease or arthritis or if you’ve been on steroids for more than six months you are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.