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Osteoporosis

What is osteoporosis?
What are the signs of osteoporosis?
What causes osteoporosis?
How does my doctor tell if I have osteoporosis?
How is osteoporosis treated?

What is osteoporosis?

Healthy bone is a living tissue, made up mainly of calcium and protein. As such, bone is always gaining and losing cells. If more calcium from the bones is being lost than is being replaced, the bone becomes less dense and weakens. Weak bones tend to break more easily.

What are the signs of osteoporosis?

Often a person will not know they have osteoporosis until they've broken a bone (or sometimes have more than one break in a fairly short – one year – period of time.)

What causes osteoporosis?

As your body grows into adulthood, it uses the minerals calcium and phosphate to form bones. When you get older, these minerals can be reabsorbed from the bones back into the body, causing the bones to weaken. This weakening can be caused by several things, including:

  • In women, a drop in estrogen at the time of menopause
  • In men, a drop in testosterone
  • Cushing's syndrome, in which the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol
  • Hyperthyroidism, in which the thyroid gland produces more hormones than the body needs
  • Hyperparathyroidism, in which one or more of the parathyroid glands makes too many hormones.
  • Bone cancer

How does my doctor tell if I have osteoporosis?

A doctor will flex and rotate your hips to check to see if you have pain and if so, where the pain is. He or she may want to perform one or more tests, including:

  • A urine test to see if you are losing bone calcium
  • A bone density test (dual X-ray absorptiometry, or bone densitometry), to reveal loss of bone tissue
  • X-rays of the hip or spine, to check for fractures and the collapse of the vertebrates

How is osteoporosis treated?

Lifestyle

Prevention measures include:

  • Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake
  • Regular weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging or dancing 3-4 times per week
  • Avoiding smoking or drinking in excess

Medications

Your doctor may also recommend one or several medications to preserve or increase bone density:

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