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What is Osteoporosis?

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Updated September 22, 2008

Question: What is Osteoporosis?
Answer: Osteoporosis is a condition that causes weakening of bone, and increased likelihood of sustaining a fracture. Osteoporosis can affect any bone in the body. The diagnosis of osteoporosis is made by measuring bone density. People who are diagnosed with osteoporosis will be treated to modify their condition in an effort to prevent fractures.

Osteoporosis is common, especially in women. About one third of women over the age of 65 have the diagnosis of osteoporosis. The diagnosis of osteoporosis means that your bone density is at least 2.5 standard deviations below the ideal peak bone mass. Osteoporosis is considered severe if you have also sustained a fracture as a result of weak bone.

The two most common reasons people tend to get osteoporosis are low peak bone mass at the time of skeletal maturity, or accelerated bone loss at the time of menopause. An individual reaches her highest bone mass at the time of skeletal maturity, and loses bone steadily thereafter. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that young individuals take steps to ensure they develop as much healthy bone as possible. Once bone loss begins, it is also important to ensure the rate of bone loss is slow. The amount of bone loss can accelerate at the time of menopause. Some people will benefit by taking medications to prevent this bone loss.

Sources:

JM Lane and M Nydick "Osteoporosis: current modes of prevention and treatment" J. Am. Acad. Ortho. Surg., Jan 1999; 7: 19 - 31.

"Osteoporosis: A debilitating disease that can be prevented and treated." National Osteoporosis Foundation

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