Most people have heard of osteoporosis, but may not truly understand it. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become brittle and susceptible to breakage due to slowed creation of new bone tissue. When the body is functioning normally, bone tissue is regularly broken down, removed, and replaced in a cycle of renewal. In osteoporosis, however, the rebuilding of bone tissue does not keep up with its removal, leading to weakened overall bone structure. When osteoporosis occurs in the spinal column, the breakage of bone could lead to vertebral collapse, painful pinched nerves, paralysis or other permanent disability.

Osteoporosis is typically diagnosed via a bone density test, which is actually recommended as part of regular testing for women over the age of 65 and men over the age of 70. The test usually looks at only a few key bones in areas like the spine, hip and wrist, and helps doctors determine the mineral content of the bones. If the bone density test shows a significant loss of bone tissue, the diagnosis is likely osteoporosis.

Watch for the following warning signs of osteoporosis:

  • Reduction in height of over an inch in a year
  • Increased, easy occurrence of bone fractures
  • Back pain
  • Hunched posture

Once the diagnosis of osteoporosis has been given, the most common medical treatment comes in the form of drugs called bisphosphonates, which slows the process by which old bone tissue is dissolved, allowing the replacement process to finally catch up. Closing the gap between removal and addition of tissue in this way is meant to reduce the risk of bone breakage in already-diagnosed osteoporosis patients.

To avoid osteoporosis altogether, you should take such precautions as:

  • Obtaining sufficient vitamin D (from sunshine, food or supplements)
  • Obtaining sufficient calcium (from low-fat dairy products, dark leafy greens, etc.)
  • Avoiding smoking and excessive intake of alcohol
  • Avoiding falls

If you are experiencing bone brittleness, loss of height and/or increasingly stooped posture and you believe your symptoms could be related to the onset of osteoporosis, call our office to make an appointment for an evaluation.