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Osteoporosis - Symptoms & Causes

Osteoporosis, also known as "brittle bone disease," is a condition that weakens your bones, making them more susceptible to fractures. It often progresses silently, with no symptoms until a fracture occurs.  While more common in older adults, osteoporosis can affect people of all ages. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent or manage osteoporosis and maintain strong, healthy bones throughout your life.

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Common Osteoporosis Symptoms

How would you know if you had osteoporosis? Chances are, you wouldn’t. Osteoporosis is often called the “silent disease” because it typically doesn’t present any symptoms until a bone breaks. But again, not every bone fracture stems from osteoporosis.


The only reason a doctor would suspect osteoporosis in a bone fracture case is if the incident that caused the fracture would not normally cause a healthy bone to break.


For instance, bones with osteoporosis can easily break due to minor falls or bumps. In more severe cases, bones can fracture simply from the stresses of bending, lifting, coughing, or sneezing. Extreme osteoporosis can weaken bones to the extent that they fracture spontaneously.


Although osteoporosis can weaken any bones in your body, it mostly affects hip bones, wrist bones, and the vertebrae making up the spine.


You may also experience more subtle osteoporosis symptoms such as:

  • Lower back pain

  • Changes in posture, particularly stooping forward or hunching the back

  • Losing your body height by an inch or more


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What Causes Osteoporosis?

Bones can lose density due to a number of different reasons. Below is a list of common osteoporosis causes and risk factors:

Ageing

Once you’re past the age of 35, your bones naturally begin to degrade and lose mass as bone regeneration processes slow down. The rate of this degradation is not linear, constant, or predictable, and it may be higher in some people than others.

Sex

Women start losing bone mass earlier and faster than men. The risk of osteoporosis is especially high in post-menopausal White and Asian women. Women are thought to undergo drastic hormonal changes that interfere with bone health.

Body frame and build

Having a body mass index (BMI) of 19 or less puts you at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. A slender build means you have less bone mass to begin with compared to thick-boned individuals.

Family history of osteoporosis

If some of your close family members have (or had) osteoporosis, you’re at high risk of developing it too.

Diet

A diet low in calcium or vitamin D can accelerate the onset of osteoporosis. Bones are mostly made of calcium. If the body can’t get enough calcium from the food you eat, it will start pulling it from bones, thinning them in the process. Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption.

Hormonal imbalances

Certain hormones are essential for maintaining strong, healthy bones. Specifically, women with low oestrogen levels and men with low testosterone levels are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

Medications

Certain medications, such as corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, thiazolidinediones, and chemo drugs, interfere with bone density. Long-term use of such drugs could lead to osteoporosis.

Lifestyle

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you risk developing osteoporosis. It’s a classic case of “use it or lose it.” Also, heavy alcohol consumption and smoking have been shown to negatively impact bone health.

Pre-existing medical conditions

Some health conditions, such as hormonal disorders, certain types of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal diseases, and HIV/AIDS, raise the risk of osteoporosis.

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