Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. As a result, bones become weak and may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from sneezing or minor bumps.
Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” Viewed under a microscope, healthy bone looks like a honeycomb. When osteoporosis occurs, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are much larger than in healthy bone. Osteoporotic bones have lost density or mass and contain abnormal tissue structure. As bones become less dense, they weaken and are more likely to break. If you’re 50 or older and have broken a bone, ask your doctor or healthcare provider about a bone density test.
Osteoporosis is Common
About 54 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. Studies suggest that approximately one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is Serious
Breaking a bone is a serious complication of osteoporosis, especially with older patients. Osteoporotic bone breaks are most likely to occur in the hip, spine or wrist, but other bones can break too. In addition to causing permanent pain, osteoporosis causes some patients to lose height. When osteoporosis affects vertebrae, or the bones of the spine, it often leads to a stooped or hunched posture.
Osteoporosis may limit mobility, which often leads to feelings of isolation or depression. Additionally, twenty percent of seniors who break a hip die within one year from either complications related to the broken bone itself or the surgery to repair it. Many patients require long-term nursing home care.
Osteoporosis is Costly
Osteoporosis is responsible for two million broken bones and $19 billion in related costs every year. By 2025, experts predict that osteoporosis will be responsible for approximately three million fractures and $25.3 billion in costs annually.
Osteoporosis Can Sneak up on You
Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease because one can’t feel bones weakening. Breaking a bone is often the first sign of osteoporosis or a patient may notice that he or she is getting shorter or their upper back is curving forward. If you are experiencing height loss or your spine is curving, be sure to consult your doctor or healthcare professional immediately.
Diseases, Conditions and Medical Procedures That May Cause Bone Loss
There are many health problems and a few medical procedures that increase the likelihood of osteoporosis. If you have any of the following diseases or conditions, talk to your doctor or health care provider about what you can do to keep your bones healthy.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
Digestive and Gastrointestinal Disorders
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Weight loss surgery
- Gastrointestinal bypass procedures
- Breast cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Leukemia and lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
- Sickle cell disease
Neurological/Nervous System Disorders
- Parkinson’s disease
- multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Spinal cord injuries
Blood and bone marrow disorders
- Eating disorders
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Irregular periods
- Premature menopause
- Low levels of testosterone and estrogen in men
Other Diseases and Conditions
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema
- Female athlete triad (includes loss of menstrual periods, an eating disorder and excessive exercise)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Liver disease, including biliary cirrhosis
- Organ transplants
- Polio and post-polio syndrome
- Poor diet, including malnutrition
- Weight loss
Note: This list may not include all of the diseases and conditions that may cause bone loss. Talk to your doctor and ask if any of the conditions you have may be causing bone loss.