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With osteoporosis, deterioration of bone tissue reduces bone strength, making bones fragile. Osteoporosis makes the wrist, hip, spine and other parts of the skeleton vulnerable to fractures. 

If you are at risk for osteoporosis, you should take steps to prevent falls. Hip fractures, in particular, can profoundly lower your quality of life. They often result in nursing home placement and serious health complications.

Osteoporosis risk factors

Risk factors for osteoporosis include the following:

  • Age
  • Small, thin body frame
  • Family history
  • Osteopenia (lower than normal bone density)
  • Smoking
  • Heavy caffeine and alcohol use
  • Menopause

Osteoporosis causes

Osteoporosis can be caused by other diseases, including the following:

Sometimes, vital medications for other diseases — such as chemotherapy for cancer or steroids for asthma or Crohn’s disease — can thin your bones and increase your risk for osteoporosis.

How can I get help for osteoporosis?

Look for signs: Though there are no symptoms for osteoporosis, there are subtle signs, including the following:

  • Height loss of one inch or more
  • Curved spine
  • Stooped posture
  • Chronic back pain

If you have signs and risk factors listed above, contact your primary care doctor or geriatrician. If you need further testing, your doctor will likely refer you to a rheumatologist or endocrinologist specializing in osteoporosis.

Have regular screenings: Osteoporosis has no cure, but it can be treated effectively to prevent damage to the bones, increase bone density and decrease fracture risk in the future. Early diagnosis is key.  All women 65 and older and men 70 and older should receive regular bone density scans. Older women have lighter, thinner bones and decreased estrogen levels — risk factors for osteoporosis. Others at high risk should also get regular bone density scans.

Care for osteoporosis at Rush

Specialists at the Rush Osteoporosis Center are dedicated to osteoporosis diagnosis, treatment, education and research. Your team works with you throughout the spectrum of care.

Prevent damage. Since osteoporosis cannot be cured, treatment focuses on slowing down damage to the bones. Specialists at Rush work with you to change your lifestyle, which may include the following:

  • Regularly doing weight-bearing exercise, like walking or hiking
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol
  • Taking steps, such as making adjustments to your home, to prevent falls
  • Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements
  • Eating a healthy diet high in calcium and vitamin D

Strengthen your body. Along with a rheumatologist specializing in osteoporosis, other specialists might be brought in for a comprehensive, holistic approach. Your team might include:

  • Physical therapists. Rehabilitation specialists at Rush can teach you weight-bearing exercises to help maintain your bone density. Strength training strengthens muscles that support and protect your bones.
  • Nutritional counselors. Eating a healthy diet high in calcium and vitamin D also helps protects your bones. Clinical dietitians at Rush work with you to develop a sensible nutrition plan.
  • Geriatricians. Often osteoporosis affects elderly patients. Your geriatrician at Rush will be included in creating your comprehensive care plan.
  • Endocrinologists. These specialists at Rush focus on the glands and hormones, key components in osteoporosis.

Medications and surgery. In more serious cases of osteoporosis, therapies beyond lifestyle modifications are needed:

  • Medications like hormone replacement therapy and bisphosphonates are used to slow bone loss
    • These can be taken orally (by mouth) or intravenously (via needle to reach your whole body). Rush offers on-site intravenous services to provide you with more convenient and coordinated care.
  • Surgery might be necessary if you have severe fractures. Orthopedic surgeons at Rush may be called in to treat your broken bones.

Why choose Rush for osteoporosis care

  • Avoiding falls is key. Medical professionals at the Rush Osteoporosis Center help you set up your home safely.
  • Rheumatologists at Rush who specialize in osteoporosis work to prevent osteoporosis in patients with autoimmune disorders, like lupus. They pay special attention to those using steroid treatments that can trigger osteoporosis.
  • The on-site infusion center conveniently allows you to take medications intravenously, when necessary. Rush’s infusion experts ensure all medication is delivered safely.
  • If you have other conditions, your rheumatologists will work with other specialists to coordinate your care.

Departments and programs that treat this condition