ARE YOU AT HIGH RISK OF DEVELOPING A FRACTURE IN YOUR SPINE
OR HIP? Read on to know more about OSTEOPOROSIS.
There is another silently
progressing, common disease other than diabetes and hypertension that can cause
potentially serious risk to your health in old age. Osteoporosis meaning “porous
bones” indicates a condition where your bones become more porous, thinner
and weaker due to accelerated loss of bone or reduced bone formation or both.
It is most evident in the vertebrae of spine, hip bones and in the wrists.
Thin and porous vertebrae
fracture easily. They crumble on their own or due to minor stresses during
daily activities like coughing, sneezing, bending forwards. These fractures can
be painless and go unnoticed in multiple levels till the spine develops a
forward bend and a noticeable loss of height. Or it can cause significant pain
and disability, limitation in daily activities and increased dependence on
others. A simple slip and fall at home can cause a fracture in the hip bones
that can make the patient completely bed ridden. These situations commonly
cause depression and general deterioration of health and leads to other risky
complications in old age.
Though it is most common women
after menopause, it also happens in men above age of 65 years and in those with
certain risk factors like liver or kidney disease, thyroid or parathyroid
disorders, and certain tumours. Smoking has been proven to cause osteoporosis.
Long term steroid intake given for various conditions and medications given for
seizure disorders also can cause osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis can be detected
easily by a screening test called the DEXA scan. Any one above the age of 50
years should consult an orthopaedic surgeon to know if they are at risk of
osteoporosis and whether he/she needs a DEXA scan. If the DEXA scan reveals
that you have osteoporosis, you must be evaluated by an orthopaedic surgeon and
an endocrinologist to look for other treatable conditions that can cause
osteoporosis. There are medications that are prescribed to strengthen the bones
and reduce the risk of fractures in future. Diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
and supplementary calcium and vitamin D medications are also an essential part
Although the vertebral
osteoporotic fractures commonly heal in a few weeks with bed rest and
medications, some of them may not heal in time or cause severe pain and disability.
These patients might need surgical intervention. Vertebroplasty is a procedure that involves injection of bone
cement into the broken vertebra and can give immediate pain relief. Kyphoplasty is a similar procedure that
can restore the height of the fractured vertebral body and reduce the forward
stoop in the spine. Open surgery might be required sometimes if the collapsed
vertebra causes a compression of the spinal cord or nerves in the spine.
Osteoporotic hip fractures and wrist fractures often need surgical treatment
Prevention of osteoporosis should
begin in childhood. Growing bones accumulate calcium and the calcium in bones
reaches a peak at around age of 26 to 30 years. After that age, there is a slow
decline in the bone calcium, which accelerates in old age especially in women
after menopause. So those who reach a lower peak of calcium in bones by the age
of 30 are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis in old age. This means
that adequate intake of dietary calcium, vitamin D and adequate exercise from
young age is very important to prevent osteoporosis.
Prevention of falls and resultant
fractures in those who are osteoporotic is an important aspect of treatment.
This needs modification of their living spaces to remove the risks of a slip
and fall. Routine exercises and an active lifestyle load the bones and make
them stronger and it is a must for all those with osteoporosis and those at
risk of developing osteoporosis.