Medical Doctor Huntsville: Osteoporosis

Medical Doctor Huntsville: Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease.  It causes progressive bone loss and increases the risk of fractures.  Osteoporosis is more common in women than men, and the incidence increases with age.  Bone loss from osteoporosis can lead to fractures and disability.  The progression of osteoporosis may be reduced with treatments, including dietary changes, nutrition supplements, exercise, and medications.

Although the exact cause of osteoporosis is unknown, there are several factors that may contribute to the condition.  As you grow older, new bone production decreases, resulting in a reduced total bone mass.  People with small bones or a family history of fractures have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis.  The risk for women increases at menopause when estrogen levels drop.  Poor nutrition, a low calcium diet, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and a lack of regular exercise are lifestyle factors that may contribute to osteoporosis.  Medications, such as steroids or anticonvulsants, and some illnesses, such as thyroid disorders or bone cancer, can cause osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis Symptoms

Osteoporosis does not cause symptoms in the early stages of the disease.  As osteoporosis progresses, you may experience bone tenderness or pain, particularly in your neck or low back.  You may develop stooped posture and a loss of height.  For many, bone fractures are the first sign of osteoporosis.  The spine, wrists, or hips are common fracture sites.

Osteoporosis Treatment

Lost bone cannot be replaced, but further bone loss can be prevented.  Treatments are also aimed at reducing pain and preventing fall-related fractures.  Your doctor will make nutrition and exercise recommendations for you.  Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are commonly advised.  Weight bearing exercises, such as walking, can help prevent bone loss and possibly increase bone density.  It is also helpful to reduce the risk factors that you can control, such as quitting smoking.

There are several different types of medications that are used to treat osteoporosis.  Your doctor will review the risks and benefits of the medications with you.  Bisphosphonates and hormone replacement therapy are used to treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.  Newer anti-estrogen medications, such as Raloxifene, are selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs).  SERMs act similar to estrogen to increase bone density, reduce the risk of fractures, and lower the risk of breast cancer.  Calcitonin is a medication that eases pain and slows the bone loss process.  Alendronate is a newer FDA approved medication to help prevent bone loss from osteoporosis.

How to Prevent Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis cannot be cured, but its progression may be prevented with medication, diet, and exercise.  You should reduce the risk factors that you can control, such as not smoking or drinking alcohol excessively.
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