Everything You Need To Know About Osteoporosis: Definition, cause, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and how to prevent it?

Everybody loses bone density during the aging process. For one in three women and one in seven men over 60 years, the degradation process of bone cells progresses too quickly. We call this osteoporosis or bone loss. The bones become thinner and more brittle, which increases the risk of bone fracture. In women, total bone loss can even increase to 50 percent.


The four stages of Osteoporosis

What is osteoporosis?

Just like your skin, muscles and organs, your bones consist of living tissue. During your life, the calcium mass of your bones is on a continuous cycle, being built-up and broken down. Due to this cycle, once every ten years your skeleton is renewed. Until the 35th year of life, bone production is greater than bone degradation. When you pass the age of forty, bone mass decreases by about two percent per year. Various things can cause the acceleration of this process, which we call osteoporosis. Bones become so brittle that even a simple fall can cause a break.

What causes osteoporosis?

In women, the leading cause of osteoporosis is the menopause. During this period, the ovaries stop the production of estrogen. This female hormone helps to fight the loss of minerals in the bones. As soon as this protection is lost, the bone mass will decrease.

In men, bone loss occurs on average 10 years later than in women. This is because men have more bone tissue. Here too, a change in hormone management can play a role. The body produces less testosterone with age; this hormone plays an important role in building bone tissue.

Osteoporosis can also be hereditary. If one of your parents, brothers or sisters has bone decalcification you also have a high chance of getting brittle bones.

In certain forms of rheumatism – such as rheumatoid arthritis or Bechterew’s disease – osteoporosis can also occur. The prolonged use of prednisone may also be a risk.

What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis affects over 2 million people in the UK, and over 10 million people in the US. Osteoporosis has no real symptoms until the first bone fracture. Unfortunately, until then, you may not notice anything. However, decreasing height and back pain can be a sign that your bones are deteriorating. The collapsing of multiple spinal vertebrae causes this “shrinkage,” which can make you as much as 25 centimeters shorter. This causes pain in the back when moving. These complaints are temporary and must therefore not be confused with osteoarthritis in the back.

How does your doctor diagnose osteoporosis?

Did you break a bone? Do you notice a decrease in height? Then you should make an appointment with your GP to investigate whether you have osteoporosis. The doctor can measure the bone density of your hip and lower back with a DXA scan. If it is too low, the risk of bone fractures is high and you may have osteoporosis. Your doctor may decide to perform a Vertebral Fracture Assessment (VFA). The VFA measures the height of the vertebrae. An X-ray of the spinal column can provide information about the position of the spinal vertebrae.

Your doctor may also perform an additional blood and urine examination, to see if another condition is to blame. The test examines the amount of calcium and bone degradation products in urine. The blood test provides more information on blood sediment (an indication of presence of inflammation), vitamin D content and hormones.

How do you treat osteoporosis?

The treatment of osteoporosis has three goals. Those goals are pain relief, prevention of bone fractures, and prevention of further bone loss. Pain can be the result of a fracture or collapsed spinal vertebra (not to be confused with arthrosis in the back). Sometimes acetaminophen is sufficient, and when it is not, the doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory agent (NSAID). In case of an severe collapsed vertebra, morphine or a morphine-like substance will be required.

To prevent bone fractures and further bone loss, your doctor will advise you to move more, get more time in the sun, and eat healthy. He can also suggest vitamins with Calcium, Vitamin D3 and Vitamin K2.

Calcium provides strength to the bones. Vitamin D3 promotes the absorption of calcium into the bones and reduces the excretion of this bone mineral. Sunlight helps your body create Vitamin D3 in the skin. This is why your doctor may suggest you spend more time outside in the sun. However, a large part of the population has a chronic shortage of Vitamin D3. Therefore, it may still be beneficial to take this in the form of a dietary supplement. In case of severe Vitamin D3 deficiency, injections can also provide a solution. Your doctor can always check your vitamin D3 through a blood test. Vitamin K2 is important in the processing of calcium in the bones.

In addition, the doctor will assess your risk of falling. In cases of reduced muscle strength or equilibrium problems, he can recommend a physical therapist. If the chance of falling is very high, he or she may refer you to a part of a hospital specialized in fall prevention.
Osteoporosis Broken bone
In severe forms of osteoporosis, you will receive a prescription for bisphosphonates from your doctor. These drugs strongly inhibit the loss of bone tissue and may even increase bone density. Research shows that the use of bisphosphonates reduces the risk of bone fracture by 50 percent. Other medications that can increase bone density are denosumab and raloxifene. If these medications do not work, the doctor may prescribe thyroid hormones. These hormones greatly affect your body’s calcium condition.

What is the best prevention against osteoporosis and bone fractures?

    • Moving is good for the bones. Walking, cycling, gardening, rowing or golfing will make your bones stronger and denser.
    • A recent study shows that using dairy is not useful in fighting osteoporosis. It also has adverse effects on rheumatoid arthritis.
    • Go out for at least 30 minutes each day. Even on a cloudy day, your skin makes enough vitamin D. From October to April the sunlight is too weak, so it’s a good idea to use a vitamin D3 supplement.
    • Eat lots of vegetables, cereals, nuts and legumes. These contain many trace elements that contribute to the maintenance of strong bones.
    • Have your eyes checked regularly. If your vision becomes less, the risk of falling – and thus bone fractures – increases.
    • Provide good lighting in your home. Many falls happen when it is too dark, for example.
    • After a bone fracture, there may be fear of a fall. This has a big impact on daily life because you will be less physically active. Moreover, people that experienced a fall are more likely to have another fall. Some hospitals have their own fall clinic, where they will teach you how to prevent falls.
    • Remove as many loose objects in your house as possible. This reduces the chance of a fall.

Also read the page on reducing the risk of osteoporosis by using certain foods >>>


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