This website gives you basic information about understanding and maintaining bone health. At no time does this information replace your doctor’s advice and orders. If you have questions, please call your doctor.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a bone disease in which the mesh-like structure inside the bone
becomes damaged. It literally means “porous bones.” The bone structure may be thin if either too much bone tissue has been lost or if not enough bone tissue has been made.
When the internal strands of the bone become too thin (lose density), the bones become weak and can fracture or break easily.
When a bone with osteoporosis is broken, it is called a “fragility fracture.”Though fragility fractures can occur anywhere in the body, the most common occurrences are in the wrist, hip, and spine.
Many people don’t realize they have fragility fractures. If left untreated, fractures due to osteoporosis could lead to serious complications.
Did You Know?
The interior of your bones are made up of bone fibers that crisscross each other in layers.
Bone Fiber Alignment
The fibers are precisely aligned to carry the forces of tension and compression.
This allows your bones to be both lightweight and strong.
When architect Gustave Eiffel was looking for a way to make his famous tower both strong and lightweight, he modeled it after the structure of the human femur (thigh bone).
Your Bones are Continually Changing
Your bones are not like the dry white bones you see in skeletons at Halloween. Bones are made up of living tissue; every cell is alive in your bones, and they are continually changing. Old dead cells are carried away and replaced by new healthy cells. The cells that carry old bone away are called osteoclasts. The cells that replace old bone with new are called osteoblasts.
How Aging Affects Bone Change
When you were a child, your bones grew rapidly. In fact, children only need about two years to completely replace their bone cells. Bones continue to grow in density through your late 20’s. At that time, the amount of old cells removed were equal to new healthy cells being created. This keeps a healthy “bone bank account.”
If you have osteoporosis, you have a negative bone balance in your bone bank account. In your mid-30’s, however, the removal and replacement of cells can begin to get out of balance. Unlike children, the adult body can take 7 to 10 years to replace all the bone cells.
As you continue to age, your body becomes less capable of replacing the cells that were lost, and thus the bones become thinner. Bone loss is normal, and not everyone will develop osteoporosis.
The most common result of having osteoporosis is a fragility fracture. More than 1.5 million people suffer a fragility fracture each year.
The severity of the fracture depends on where it is located, the most common locations being the wrist, spine, and hip.
Even if a fracture does not occur, the spinal bones (vertebrae) may become weak and crush together.
As this happens, the spine curves, which can result in back pain, height loss and difficulty breathing because there is less space under the ribs.
Loss of Mobility
Osteoporotic bones take a longer time to heal than healthy bones. Fragility fractures can have a dramatic effect on your quality of life. With time, medication and physical therapy, patients can often regain bone strength.
Factors Affecting Osteoporosis
These factors can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis:
- Age: The older you get, the greater the risk
- Race: If you are white or of Asian descent
- Gender: One out of two women and one out of four men are likely to develop osteoporosis
- Family History: If someone in your family has had osteoporosis or a hip fracture
- Lifestyle: Inactive lifestyle
- Diet: A diet low in calcium and vitamin D
- Frame size: The smaller your frame, the greater your risk
- Certain medical conditions: Having type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease (GERD)
- Sex hormones: A reduction of hormones. In women, estrogen loss occurs primarily during and after menopause; in men, testosterone loss occurs gradually. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D becomes particularly important during these years
- Smoking: Recent studies have shown a direct relationship between tobacco use and decreased bone density. In addition, most studies on the effects of smoking suggest that smoking increases the risk of having a facture. Not all studies support these findings, but the evidence is mounting
Medical Conditions and Osteoporosis
These medical conditions can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
- Celiac Disease
- Bariatric Surgery
- Autoimmune Hepatitis
- Anorexia Nervosa or Bulemia
- Alcoholic Cirrhosis
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Vitamin D Deficiency
- Total Parental Nutrition
- Lactose Intolerance
- Wheelchair-bound Parkinson’s Disease
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Insulin Dependence
- Organ Transplants
Medications can contribute to Osteoporosis
- Long-term Corticosteroids (3 months or more, 5mg or more), Cytoxic Drugs,
- Lithium, Aromatase Inhibitors, Long-term Heparin, Gonadotropin-releasing
- hormone agonists, Depo-Provera, Lupron, Anticonvulsants, Selective
- Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), and Thiazolidinediones (TZDs),
- Long-term Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
If you are concerned about your bone health or your doctor refers you, the South Texas Fracture Prevention Clinic will help determine your bone health with excellent care. Call (210) 495-9047 today to get started.
Special thanks to Wake Forest University Fracture Liaison Service for guidance and Authorization to use material.