Facts | Symptoms
| Prevention | Treatment
About 10 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis, while an additional
34 million have a low bone mass that places them at an increased risk for
disease. Although most commonly found in women, 2 million men also have osteoporosis.
This disease, characterized by weak bones, leads to more than 1.5 million
fractures each year.
In spite of these staggering statistics, osteoporosis is often overlooked
and underreported by primary care physicians. USA Today estimates that as
many as half of all women with osteoporosis have not been diagnosed.
the field of spine, osteoporosis can have extremely serious consequences.
Because osteoporosis often progresses undetected, the first indication
could be as disastrous as a bone fracture. These fractures typically
of the body that carries the most stress, such as the spine, wrists or
hips. Spinal fractures can occur without notice, as vertebrae simply
fractures can be very painful and may lead to stooped posture, loss of
height and risk of serious neurological damage to spinal nerves.
High risk factors that contribute to the development of osteoporosis
include smoking, depression, alcoholism, poor eating habits, a family history
being over the age of 50, female, inactive, thin or small and taking certain
medications. Post-menopausal women are at the highest risk of developing
good news is that doctors have learned that the symptoms of osteoporosis
preventable and can be minimized. The key is early detection
the problem through osteoporosis screening using a bone densitometer. This
scan determines how porous the spine, hip and wrist bones are — the
most susceptible areas to the symptoms of osteoporosis. If this test reveals
a low bone mass, preventive treatments can keep it from worsening and even
improve bone strength, lessening the risk of fracture.
bone densitometer test is a simple, painless scan. During the test, the
patient lies on a special table while the scan device passes
over the length
of the body. There is absolutely no pain or discomfort involved in the
test, and it takes only a few minutes.
candidates for a bone densitometer test include the following people:
and women over 65
women with risk factors
with a family history of low bone mass
and Asian women
Everyone can do something about osteoporosis. The best way is to create
a lifestyle that reduces risk factors and incorporates ways to build
These treatment methods include the following:
- Eat a balanced diet rich in
calcium and vitamin D (milk, yogurt, cheese, broccoli, fish, beans
and wheat bread)
- Exercise and lift weights regularly
- Refrain from smoking and excessive alcohol
- Maintain good posture
- Take calcium supplements
- Consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
falls and injuries when possible
porous vertebrae collapse, spine surgeons must either use metal plates
and screws or new kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty techniques to correct
the problem. Vertebroplasty involves the injection of a cement-like substance
through a needle into the defective vertebral block. The cement hardens
within a couple hours, and the patient receives painkillers for the first
few days after treatment. Kyphoplasty is used primarily when the front
part of the porous vertebra collapses, which can cause the person to
have a hunched-over appearance, also called “widow’s hump.” Kyphoplasty
is a two-step process in which a balloon device is inserted into the
porous vertebral block, and cement is injected into the balloon to help
restore the original shape of the vertebra.
of these treatments can correct the porous nature of a vertebra, but
they do represent damage control methods used to restore correct shape
in vertebrae. The best solution for osteoporosis is to detect it in its
early stages and then treat the cause of osteoporosis before it weakens
bones to the point of fracture and compression under stress.
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