Rheumatology

Osteoporosis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoporosis is a disease that involves the loss of bone density and reduced bone health. Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bones’ in Greek, and it occurs when bone health deteriorates as we age.

A very common condition, osteoporosis affects almost a quarter of women over the age of 65. It can lead to serious symptoms such as fractures and breaks, and may also cause chronic pain and a loss of height. However, if diagnosed and treated appropriately, it’s possible to reduce bone loss and improve bone health.

What Causes Osteoporosis?

There are many causes of osteoporosis. The most common cause is age—people start to naturally lose bone density as they get older. Conditions like hyperthyroidism and long-term use of corticosteroids may also cause bone loss.

As we get older, it’s more difficult for our bodies to regenerate bone tissue, which is naturally broken down and reformed over time. When our bodies can’t reform bones faster than they break down, our bones become weakened and brittle, making it easier for fractures and breaks to occur.

Osteoporosis Symptoms

Osteoporosis is called a “silent disease” because many people aren’t aware they have it until they break or fracture a bone. But there are some common visible osteoporosis symptoms, which include:

  • Loss of height (in other words, getting shorter)
  • A curvature of the upper back (kyphosis) or stooped posture
  • Bones that break or fracture easily
  • Weakened hand strength and difficulty grasping objects

Those with osteoporosis may also suffer from back and/or neck pain caused by the compression of spinal disks or collapsed vertebra.

How is Osteoporosis Diagnosed?

Osteoporosis is typically diagnosed through a bone density test and/or family history review. First, your doctor will ask you about your family history and assess you for different risk factors. Then, your doctor will perform a bone density test or check for other conditions that could cause bone loss.

Here at Florida Medical Clinic, we run a Bone Health Clinic to test and treat patients for this disease. The goal of our Bone Health Clinic is to screen patients, provide treatment, improve bone quality, and find ways to reduce the risk of future fractures.

Osteoporosis Treatment

Osteoporosis treatment usually involves a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.

There are a number of different drugs used to treat osteoporosis, including a class of drugs called Antiresorptives to help slow down bone loss and Anabolic agents that assist in building bone. Post-menopausal patients may also be prescribed low doses of estrogen to combat bone density loss. Your doctor will help you find a medication that works best for you.

In addition to medication, your doctor may recommend several lifestyle changes to help treat bone loss. These lifestyle changes include engaging in regular weight-bearing physical activities (such as walking or lifting weights), eating a healthy diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D, and quitting smoking.

If you want to know more about changing your lifestyle, talk with your doctor or schedule an appointment with our Bone Health Clinic. We can help you find ways to incorporate healthy living habits into your current routine.

Prevention

If you’re at risk for osteoporosis, it’s important to take steps to prevent it before it starts. Many of the same preventative measures are similar to the lifestyle changes that are recommended for treating this disease. Here are some things you can do:

  • Stop smoking
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Engage in high-impact, weight-bearing exercises, such as jogging, dancing, or stair-climbing
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and proteins rich in calcium and vitamin D
  • Get regular screenings performed by your healthcare provider

If you want to learn more about prevention, talk to your doctor or schedule a visit at our Bone Health Clinic by calling (813) 782-1234.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who’s most at risk?

Everyone is at risk for osteoporosis as they age, but there are a few factors that increase that risk. These factors include:

  • Being post-menopausal or experiencing menopause at a relatively young age
  • Having a family history of osteoporosis
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle and not exercising regularly
  • Smoking
  • Regularly drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol
  • Eating a poor diet or a diet that’s low in essential nutrients, particularly calcium and vitamin D
  • Being underweight or overweight

According to the US Preventive Services Task Force, you should be screened for osteoporosis if you have any of these risk factors, are post-menopausal, and younger than 65. You should also receive a test if you’re a woman over the age of 65 or a man over the age of 70, regardless of other risk factors.

What is a bone density test?

A bone density test (also called a DEXA scan) involves using an x-ray to look at a small section of bone to determine bone mineral content. Low bone mineral content is an indicator of osteoporosis. 

Bone density tests are quick, non-invasive, and can be performed right in a doctor’s office or clinic. They can also be used to determine if someone is at risk of developing bone density problems in the future.

How serious is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis can be quite serious if left undiagnosed or untreated. Weakened bones break more easily and heal more slowly than healthy bones. 

Furthermore, other osteoporosis symptoms, like limited mobility and chronic pain, can be severe enough to disrupt daily life or even cause mental health problems, like depression. Getting screened and seeking treatment from a licensed healthcare provider can help prevent some of the most severe complications of this disease.

Can osteoporosis be reversed?

Osteoporosis cannot be completely reversed, although some drugs show promise in helping patients rebuild lost bone density and prevent more serious osteoporosis symptoms, such as fractures.

It is never too early or too late to adopt bone-healthy habits. It’s possible to improve the quality of bone health and slow the loss of bone density through a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. Our Bone Health Clinic is dedicated to helping patients combat the symptoms of osteoporosis and prevent the risk of future fractures or breaks.

What do I do if I have more questions?

At Florida Medical Clinic, we work with patients of all ages to develop treatment and prevention plans to reduce the risk of fracture and live long, active lives. Our Bone Health Clinic is led by certified clinical densitometrist Julie Norton, APRN, who is an expert in studying and interpreting bone density tests.

If you’re concerned about your bone health, call (813) 782-1234 to schedule a rheumatology appointment with our Bone Health Clinic.

You can visit one of our Bone Health Clinic locations below:

Tampa Heights

4012 N. Florida Ave

Tampa, FL 33603

Land O’ Lakes

2100 Via Bella Blvd, Suite 201

Land O’ Lakes, FL 34639

Zephyrhills

38135 Market Square, Suite 220

Zephyrhills, FL 33542

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