Osteoporosis – Symptoms and Causes of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is accelerated bone loss. Normally, there is loss of bone mass with aging, perhaps 0.7% per year in adults. However, bone loss is greater in women past menopause than in men of the same age. The process of bone remodelling from resorption to matrix synthesis to mineralization normally takes about 8 months–a slow but constant process. Bone in older persons just isn’t as efficient as bone in younger persons at maintaining itself–there is decreased activity of osteoblasts and decreased production of growth factors and bone matrix.

Osteoporosis causes, diagnosis, symptoms, risk factors, prevention, and treatment. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to weaken, become brittle and more easily breakable. The osteoporosis disease process can be silent (without symptoms) for decades. It’s a harse reality that the drugs we take to treat arthritis, especially the corticosteroids, also wreak havoc on our bones.

Osteoporosis occurs when the resorption causes the bones to reach a fracture threshold (the point at which they are likely to break when subjected to a modest stress, such as falling). A fall, blow or lifting action that would not normally bruise or strain the average person can easily break one or more bones in someone with severe osteoporosis.

Symptoms of Osteoporosis

Bone pain is seen less commonly than joint pain and muscle pain. The source of bone pain may be obvious, as in a fracture following an accident. Or it may be more subtle, such as cancer that spreads (metastasizes) to the bone.

Hip fractures typically occur as a result of a fall. With osteoporosis, hip fractures can occur as a result of trivial accidents. Hip fractures may also be difficult to heal after surgical repair because of poor bone quality.

An abnormally curved upper back, or dowager’s hump, develops when the bones of the upper spine (vertebrae) become thin and brittle (known as osteoporosis) and collapse on each other. Having collapsed vertebrae in any part of the spine results in a loss of height.

The appearance of the widow’s hump or a fractured wrist or hip from a fall may be the first actual symptoms of osteoporosis unless your doctor has been measuring your bone density. Men also should watch for a loss of height, change in posture or sudden back pain. There are a number of risk factors that increase a person’s likelihood of having osteoporosis.

Pain, disfigurement, and debilitation are common in the latter stages of the disease. Early spinal compression fractures may go undetected for a long time, but after a large percentage of calcium has been lost, the vertebrae in the spine start to collapse, gradually causing a stooped posture called kyphosis, or a “dowager’s hump.” Although this is usually painless, patients may lose as much as 6 inches in height.

Causes of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis occurs when an imbalance occurs between new bone formation and old bone resumption. The body may fail to form enough new bone, or too much old bone may be reabsorbed, or both.

The strength of your bones depends on their size and density; bone density depends in part on the amount of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals bones contain. When your bones contain fewer minerals than normal, they’re less strong and eventually lose their internal supporting structure.

The leading cause of osteoporosis is a lack of certain hormones, particularly estrogen in women and androgen in men. Women, especially those older than 60 years, are frequently diagnosed with the disease. Menopause brings lower estrogen levels and increases a woman’s risk for osteoporosis. Other factors that may contribute to bone loss in this age group include inadequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, lack of weight-bearing exercise, and other age-related changes in endocrine functions (in addition to lack of estrogen).