What Is Osteoporosis? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

What Is Osteoporosis?

What is osteoporosis?

In simple terms, osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle.

In other words, osteoporosis leads to an increased risk of fractures (breaks in the bone).

Osteoporosis affects both men and women, but it is especially common in women after menopause. (1)

Symptoms of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is often called a “silent disease” because there are usually no symptoms until a fracture occurs. (2)

However, there are some signs that can indicate osteoporosis, such as:

  • Severe back pain
  • Loss of height over time
  • A stooped or hunched posture
  • Weaker grip strength
  • Receding gums
  • Brittle Fingernails
  • Bone fracture (osteoporosis fractures can occur in any bone, but they are most common in the hip, spine, and wrist).

What causes osteoporosis?

There are many factors that can contribute to the development of osteoporosis, including:

  • Family history. If you have a parent or grandparent with osteoporosis, you’re more likely to develop it as well.
  • Being small and thin. People with smaller frames are at greater risk because they have less bone mass to lose as they age.
  • Being of Caucasian or Asian descent. Caucasians and Asians are more likely to develop osteoporosis than people of other racial groups. (3)
  • Having certain medical conditions. Conditions like celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease can increase your risk.
  • Taking certain medications. Medications like steroids, cancer drugs, and anticonvulsants can cause bone loss.
  • Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients are essential for bone health.
  • Having a sedentary lifestyle. People who don’t get enough exercise are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
  • Smoking. Cigarette smoking can decrease bone density and increase the risk of fractures.
  • Drinking too much alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to bone loss.

Osteoporosis treatment

If you think you might have osteoporosis, it’s important to see a doctor so they can diagnose the condition and develop a treatment plan.

There are several effective treatments for osteoporosis, including:

  • Medications. There are several different types of drugs that can be used to treat osteoporosis, including bisphosphonates, denosumab, and parathyroid hormone. (4, 5)
  • Hormone and hormone-related therapy. This type of therapy can be used to treat postmenopausal women who are at risk for osteoporosis. (6)

Effective ways to prevent osteoporosis

There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis, including:

  • Getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Aim for 1,000-1,200 mg of calcium per day and 800-1000 IU of vitamin D per day. (6, 7)
  • Exercise. Regular exercise can help strengthen bones and improve balance, which can reduce the risk of falls and fractures.
  • Stop smoking. If you smoke cigarettes, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your bone health.
  • Limit alcohol intake. Drinking alcohol in moderation is fine, but excessive drinking can lead to bone loss.
  • Prevent falls. Falls are the most common cause of fractures in people with osteoporosis. To prevent falls, make sure your home is safe (remove tripping hazards, install handrails, etc.).

The takeaway

Osteoporosis is a serious condition that can lead to fractures.

However, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk, including getting enough calcium and vitamin D, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking.

If you think you might have osteoporosis, it’s important to see a doctor so they can develop a treatment plan.

What Is Osteoporosis?