Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones can weaken and become brittle and prone to fractures from even the mildest stresses such as bending or coughing. Older women, especially Caucasian and Asian women, are at a much higher risk of developing osteoporosis. As this condition weakens the bones, fractures related to osteoporosis are common and often occur in the spine, wrist and hip.
Your bones are a dynamic system and are being constantly renewed – old bone is broken down and new bone is made. Osteoporosis occurs when new bone creation is unable to keep up with the loss of previous, old bone. Younger people’s bodies break down and build up new bones much faster, but this process can slow down as people age.
In the earliest stages of osteoporosis, there may not be evident symptoms or any symptoms at all. However, once the bones begin to become brittle and weak, you may notice:
- Back pain, often a result of a fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Height loss over time
- Bones that can break more easily
- A stooped posture
- Receding gums (due to bone loss in the jaw)
- Weakened grip strength
- Weak and brittle fingernails
Doctors often test for osteoporosis by first reviewing medical history and then conducting a physical exam. There may also be a blood and urine test to look for conditions that can cause bone loss. There may also be a bone density test conducted to determine whether or not you’re at risk for osteoporosis. If you do have osteoporosis, the doctor will likely create a treatment plan that includes medications and lifestyle changes. There currently is no cure for osteoporosis, however, proper treatment can strengthen and protect bones.
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