The Medical Minute: Osteoporosis

May 26, 2010 By Edward J. Fox

Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become thin. As a result, the bones are more likely to break. Bones most often affected are in the hip, spine and wrist, but the ribs and other bones also are at risk.

Nearly 25 million Americans have osteoporosis and most of them are women above the age of 60. Men are also vulnerable to the disease. In the early stages of osteoporosis there are no signs or symptoms, which is why it has the nickname “the silent disease.” The loss of bone progresses gradually until a bone breaks. Other signs are a loss of height and bad posture.

Common Osteoporosis Risk Factors:

• Older than 65 years of age
• Broke a bone after age 50
• Close relative has osteoporosis or has broken a bone
• Health is fair or poor
• Smokes
• Underweight for height
• Started menopause before age 45
• Lack of calcium intake
• Has two or more drinks of alcohol several times per week
• Has poor vision even with glasses
• Sometimes falls
• Not physically active

Patients who have one of the following medical conditions may be prone to osteoporosis:

• Hyperthyroidism
• Chronic lung disease
• Cancer
• Inflammatory bowel disease
• Chronic hepatitis or renal disease
• Hyperparathyroidism
• Vitamin D deficiency
• Cushing’s Disease
• Multiple Sclerosis
• Rheumatoid arthritis

Patients who take the following medicines may be prone to osteoporosis:

• Oral glucocortoids (steroids)
• Cancer treatment (radiation, chemotherapy)
• Thyroid medicine
• Antiepileptic medications
• Gonadal hormone suppression
• Immunosuppressive agents

A physician may suggest a bone density scan for patients in a high-risk group to determine if some form of treatment to prevent or treat is needed. This is especially true for women around menopause when estrogen levels fall. There are several techniques for measuring density, and they are safe and painless.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Zika virus infection alters human and viral RNA

October 20, 2016

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have discovered that Zika virus infection leads to modifications of both viral and human genetic material. These modifications—chemical tags known as ...

Food-poisoning bacteria may be behind Crohn's disease

October 19, 2016

People who retain a particular bacterium in their gut after a bout of food poisoning may be at an increased risk of developing Crohn's disease later in life, according to a new study led by researchers at McMaster University.

Neurodevelopmental model of Zika may provide rapid answers

October 19, 2016

A newly published study from researchers working in collaboration with the Regenerative Bioscience Center at the University of Georgia demonstrates fetal death and brain damage in early chick embryos similar to microcephaly—a ...

Scientists uncover new facets of Zika-related birth defects

October 17, 2016

In a study that could one day help eliminate the tragic birth defects caused by Zika virus, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have elucidated how the virus attacks the brains of newborns, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.