Updated: November 16, 2017
Osteoporosis means porous bone. It is a disease characterized by low bone mass and loss of bone tissue that may lead to weak and fragile bones.
Bone density decreases after 35 years of age, and bone loss occurs more rapidly in women after menopause. Healthy bone looks like a honeycomb when viewed under a microscope.
When osteoporosis occurs, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are much larger than in healthy bone. Osteoporotic bones have lost density or mass and contain abnormal tissue structure. As bones become less dense, they weaken and are more likely to break especially in the hip, spinal vertebrae, and wrist.
It can affect both males and females, but it is most likely to occur in women after menopause.This happens because of the sudden decrease in estrogen during menopause, the hormone that normally protects against osteoporosis.
Normal bone is composed of protein, collagen, and calcium, all of which give bone its strength. The body maintains bone density and the integrity of its crystals and structure by regularly replacing old, damaged bone by new ones. As we age, bone breaks down faster than it builds. If this happens excessively, osteoporosis results.
There are several risk factors associated with osteoporosis. Some are modifiable, but others cannot be avoided.
Non-modifiable risk factors include:
Risk of osteoporosis increases after the mid-30s, and especially after menopause in women.
Being tall (over 5 feet 7 inches) or slim (weighing under 125 pounds) increases the risk.
Personal history of fracture as an adult especially after the age of 50 years.
Having family history of osteoporosis such as a close family member with a diagnosis of hip fracture or osteoporosis makes it more likely.
White people and Asians are more susceptible than other ethnic groups.
This may occur in menopause or with early surgical removal of both ovaries. Lower estrogen levels make it harder for bone to reproduce.
Low testosterone levels in men
Modifiable risk factors include:
Weight bearing exercise helps prevent osteoporosis by placing stress on the bones, and there by encouraging bone growth.
Some diseases or medications cause changes in hormone levels. Some medicines also reduce bone mass.
Diseases that affect hormone levels include hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, and Cushing's disease. Women who receive hormone treatment (HT) may be at higher risk of osteoporosis.
The most common type of medicine induced osteoporosis is glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis.
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