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Reviewed by

Team Resolve

February 3, 2022

OSTEOPOROSIS

The term ‘osteo’ implies bone while the term ‘porosis’ implies porous, essentially making bones of an individual porous, with reduced strength and increased incidence of fractures. In medical sciences, there are several ‘silent diseases’, i.e., they do not bring about any symptoms and are usually diagnosed as an incidental finding. Osteoporosis is one such disease and it hence becomes important to diagnose it at the earliest, which shall enable the patient to make lifestyle modifications accordingly.

Table of Contents

What causes Osteoporosis?

Bones are dynamic, which means that they are constantly being made and destroyed by the body normally as well. During early life, the production of new bone is more than the destruction of previous bone. As the age of an individual increases, the production of the bone decreases while destruction increases. This causes an imbalance and resultant bone is weak and prone to breaking, resulting in what we call as ‘Osteoporosis’.

Who can get Osteoporosis?

While Osteoporosis can affect any individual in the world, there are various risk factors which increase the chances if getting this disease, like:

  • Age: As age increases, risk of developing osteoporosis increases.
  • Sex: Females are at a higher risk as compared to males.
  • Ethnicity: Whites and Asians are at a higher risk.
  • Family history: Having close family members who suffer from increased fractures or are a known patient of Osteoporosis are at a higher risk.
  • Medicines: Prolonged intake of cancer medication or steroids can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Hormones: Decreased estrogen (post-menopausal females) and decreased testosterone (in males) can be a contributory factor.
  • Diet: A diet low in calcium or vitamin D can increase risk of developing this disease in later life.
  • Alcohol intake and Smoking

Warning signs to look out for

While Osteoporosis is a disease with no symptoms, there are certain warning signs which if identified on time, can help get an early diagnosis and ensure that the suffering individual gets appropriate care. These include:

  • Stooping posture or loss of height with age
  • Increased incidence of fractures on minor falls, or during activities like bending, coughing etc.
  • Increased pain of falling or persistent back pain

Most of these signs are not easily noticeable in the early stages of the disease. Hence it is recommended to go for periodic screening tests if adequate risk factors are present.

What can be done at home?

Much more than medical management, physical therapy and lifestyle modifications are needed to ensure the individual can lead a productive life.

Physical Therapy and Exercise

  • Balancing exercises like yoga help develop balance and prevents frequent falls.
  • Strengthening exercises like lifting weights, pushups etc. help build up muscle strength and proper posture.
  • Flexibility exercises including stretches and rotating all joints as per their range of motion helps reduce stiffness of movements.
  • Aerobic exercises like walking, dancing, swimming help build up body strength and offers cardiovascular benefits as well.

Note: Avoid exercises of high impact which can result in falls or injuries.

Dietary Changes and Supplementation

  • Food items rich in calcium like dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale etc.), dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt etc.), fruits (bananas, oranges etc.) should be incorporated in diet to improve the natural calcium reserves of the body.
  • Daily exposure to early morning sun for as little as 10 minutes can boost up vitamin D stores which can help improve the condition of the individual.
  • If due to any reason, the above two modifications are not possible, dietary supplements for calcium and vitamin D are available.
  • Intake of nuts like almonds, walnuts etc. should be encouraged.
  • For non-vegetarian individuals, fish and egg are recommended.
  • Alcohol, high salt intake, caffeine, red meat etc. should be avoided.

Mental health and support

A disease like osteoporosis limits the daily activity and can impact not only the physical health but also the mental and social health. Many individuals become socially excluded and it is important to take some steps which ensures their healthy participation in activities.

  • Care must be taken to ensure a safe environment, free of loose wires, cords, sharp furniture, slippery floors etc. for the patient.
  • Counselling the patient as well as the family members can help mitigate the common concerns and also ensures emotional support for the patient.
  • The affected individuals must be encouraged to function normally and participate in activities. Furthermore, encouragement should be given to report any abnormal symptoms noticed at the earliest.
  • It is important to educate oneself about their disease from valid resources and not to believe in hear-say stories.
  • Professional psychiatric and psychological help should be taken if the individual feels isolated, loses interest in activities which were enjoyable earlier, anxiety on meeting old friends etc.

When to contact a doctor?

Periodic screening tests should be done for all individuals with various risk factors like old age, female sex, post-menopause phase, chronic alcohol intake and smoking history etc. A doctor must be consulted if:

  • There is an increased incidence of fractures after minor falls and injuries
  • Clothes which fit earlier no longer fit properly
  • Stooped posture
  • Constant pain in back or hips

Treatment Options

To start treatment, it is important to make an absolute diagnosis first. For osteoporosis, the most common investigations ordered are:

  • X-ray: A x-ray of shoulder joint, hip joint, wrists or spine can help diagnose fractures and make a diagnosis of osteoporosis when correlated with history.
  • Bone Mass Density: This test helps the doctor to determine the density of your bone tissue and if found low, points towards a diagnosis of osteoporosis.

Once diagnosed, there are several treatment options available for Osteoporosis:

Conservative Methods

  • Prevention is better than cure. It is imperative to be careful and ensure less risks of falls and injuries. 
  • Braces and walking aids can be used if need is felt.

Medicinal Treatment

  • Calcium: Being the primary constituent of bone tissue, calcium supplements can be advised to help build up the bone strength. 
  • Vitamin D: This vitamin helps in absorption of calcium from the diet and helps build up the strength of the bones.
  • Bisphosphonates: Drugs like alendronate, risedronate etc. are useful in preventing the desorption of bone tissues and are the mainstay treatment these days.
  • Estrogen affecting drugs: Hormone Replacement Therapy and Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators are the mainstay drugs prescribed for post-menopausal women.

Lifestyle Modifications

Some small changes in daily life can not only help a patient lead a normal life, but can also help prevent development of osteoporosis in high-risk individuals.

  • Calcium rich food items, like bananas, milk, soyabean, dark green leafy vegetables etc. should be incorporated into diet. If not available, supplements of calcium and vitamin D can be taken to meet daily requirements of the body.
  • Daily exercise, focusing on strength building can help retain strength in the musculoskeletal system.
  • Yoga or other balance improving exercises can help prevent the risk of falls and related injuries.
  • Stop smoking and reduce alcohol intake to maintain a healthy lifestyle and decrease the risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Sunlight is one of the best sources of natural vitamin D! Exposure to early morning sun for around ten minutes can boost up the vitamin D stores of the body.
  • Ensure a safe environment. Removing cables, loose wires, sharp furniture, slippery rugs can help ensure it. Further it is advised to wear sturdy footwear with proper grip.

Osteoporosis is a common disease affecting older females. More often than not, the individuals most affected are those who cannot always make time for proper therapy which can lead to further worsening of their conditions. To help ensure that every person has equal access to rehabilitative services, Resolve360 is an endeavour to mitigate the challenges faced by those suffering from any medical disease. Armed with a dedicated team of doctors, therapists and counsellors, we offer holistic care available at your time and convenience! To book your first free session, register at https://resolve360.app/

Disclaimer

This article is meant to guide and educate the patients. All medical treatment is to be undertaken under the guidance of expert medical service providers only.

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