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:
- Small, thin body frame
- Family history
- Osteopenia (lower than normal bone density)
- Heavy caffeine and alcohol use
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.