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Warning Signs of Osteoporosis

What to Watch for to Detect the Onset of Osteoporosis

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Updated September 06, 2013

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that results in an 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 can be easily diagnosed, and treatment initiated, but only if the proper tests are performed. Knowing when to have a bone density test can help you diagnose the condition and begin appropriate treatment.

Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

  • Things You Can't Control
    These are risk factors that you can't control. Things you are born with or have developed that place you in a category of individuals that have a high chance of developing osteoporosis. The more of these risk factors you have, the more vigilant you should be about monitoring your bone health.
    • Female sex
    • Caucasian
    • Family history of osteoporosis
    • Age over 65 years
    • Early menopause (Includes surgical removal of ovaries before age 45)
    • Malabsorption conditions (such Celiac or Crohn's Disease)
    • Endocrine disorders (such as Thyroid or Parathyroid Disease)
    • Cancers (such as Myeloma or Lymphoma)
  • Things You Can Control
    These are choices you have made in your life. Making some lifestyle choices can affect your bone health and make it more likely that you will develop problems with bone health. The more risk factors you have, the more likely it is that you will develop osteoporosis.
    • Smoking
    • Excessive alcohol consumption
    • Poor diet
    • Inadequate calcium or Vitamin D intake
    • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Other Risk Factors
    There are conditions and medications that can also affect your chance of developing osteoporosis. However, these may not be so easily altered. For example, stopping a medication that treats seizures may not be possible, but these should be considered when assessing your risk of developing osteoporosis.
    • Some seizure medications (such as Dilantin)
    • Oral steroids (such as Prednisone)
    • Lithium
    • Immunosuppression treatments
    • Some types of chemotherapy

Warning Signs of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is best treated before any signs or symptoms develop. Therefore, it is important to understand your risk factors for developing osteoporosis, and thus your likelihood of developing the condition. Some warning signs that you need to discuss bone health with your doctor include:
  • Low-Energy Fractures
    Most everyone has had a broken bone, but usually there is a major force that causes the injury. Fractures after falls from a height, car crashes, or sports injuries make sense. But when you break a bone with minimal force, osteoporosis should be considered.

  • Unexplained Bone or Joint Pain
    There are many causes of bone and joint pain, but osteoporosis may contribute to these symptoms. When the bones lack sufficient strength to hold the weight of your body, injury can occur. Unexplained bone or joint pain may raise the consideration of a bone health problem.

  • Height Loss or Stooping
    Compression fractures of the spine may go undetected or be attributed to a back strain type of injury. When multiple vertebrae are injured, people may lose height or develop a curvature to their spine. The typical appearance of an individual with compression fractures is a short stature with a humped back.
Discuss with your doctor if you need a bone density test. Osteoporosis can only be diagnosed by knowing your bone density, and treatment is best accomplished once the extent of the osteoporosis is understood.

Sources:

"Prevention: Who's at Risk?" National Osteoporosis Foundation. © 2008.

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

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