Thinning of the bones, with reduction in bone mass, due to depletion of calcium and bone protein. Osteoporosis predisposes a person to fractures, which are often slow to heal and heal poorly. It is most common in older adults, particularly postmenopausal women, and in patients who take steroids or steroidal drugs.
Your bones are in a constant state of renewal — new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone and your bone mass increases. Most people reach their peak bone mass by their early 20s. As people age, bone mass is lost faster than it’s created.
How likely you are to develop osteoporosis depends partly on how much bone mass you attained in your youth. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have “in the bank” and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.
Bone maintenance is a delicate business. In adults, the daily removal of small amounts of bone mineral, a process called resorption, must be balanced by an equal deposition of new mineral if bone strength is to be preserved. When this balance tips toward excessive resorption, bones weaken (osteopenia) and over time can become brittle and prone to fracture (osteoporosis).
This continual resorption and redeposition of bone mineral, or bone remodeling, is intimately tied to the pathophysiology of osteoporosis. Understanding how bone remodeling is regulated is the key to the effective prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis can be a silent disease, but many patients suffer symptoms such as pain and height loss. Read a brief description of osteoporosis symptoms.
Sudden, severe back pain, especially in older women, often signifies a spinal compression fracture — a sign of weak bones. So get that back pain checked out.
Osteoporosis is often diagnosed after weakened bones have led to a fracture.
DEXA (DXA) scan
A DEXA scan can be used to help diagnose osteoporosis. It’s a quick, safe and painless procedure that usually takes about five minutes, depending on the part of the body being scanned.
The scan measures your bone mineral density and compares it to the bone mineral density of a healthy young adult and someone who’s the same age and sex as you.
The difference between the density of your bones and that of a healthy young adult is calculated as a standard deviation (SD) and is called a T score.
Standard deviation is a measure of variability based on an average or expected value. A T score of:
- above -1 SD is normal
- between -1 and -2.5 SD is defined as decreased bone mineral density compared with peak bone mass
- below -2.5 is defined as osteoporosis
Although a bone density scan can help diagnose osteoporosis, your bone mineral density result isn’t the only factor that determines your risk of fracturing a bone.
Osteoporosis treatments come in several forms. Many should be started during childhood; others include prescription drugs to treat osteoporosis. Get an overview.
Osteopenia Lifestyle Treatments
Osteopenia is a term used to describe bone density that is somewhat lower than normal but not low enough to be diagnosed as osteoporosis.
Weight-bearing exercise is often an option for osteoporosis patients, and it might even help your bones, as this article explains. Check with your doctor before starting a new fitness program.
Strontium Treatment for Osteoporosis
If you are concerned about the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, one treatment you may have heard of and considered is strontium.