Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens the bones, making them fragile and more likely to break.
What is osteoporosis?
The stage before osteoporosis is called osteopenia, and is when your bones start losing density. Osteopenia doesn’t necessarily lead to osteoporosis though, and if you do have osteopenia you can take precautions to avoid getting osteoporosis.
It is usual to lose some bone as you age. However, osteoporosis is when you lose bone a lot faster than normal.
What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?
As bone mass decreases slowly, there are no obvious symptoms of osteoporosis. However, as osteoporosis progresses you may notice:
- Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Loss of height over time
- A stooped posture
- A bone fracture that happens easily
What causes osteoporosis?
Common risk factors and causes of osteoporosis include:
Menopause – you’re more likely to develop osteoporosis if you’ve gone through an early menopause
Medication – taking medications for several months can contribute to bone loss
Genes – osteoporosis can run in families
Lifestyle – sitting for a long time, taking too much alcohol and tobacco can increase your chances of getting osteoporosis
How is osteoporosis diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your medical history, alongside discussing symptoms with you. A fracture is sometimes the first symptom of osteoporosis and your doctor may request the following:
- CT scan – your doctor can measure bone density and check for fractures in the vertebrae
- MRI of the spine – your doctor can see how recent the fractures are and decide the best treatment. New fractures are more responsive to kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty.
- X-ray – these allow your doctor to see any fractures in other parts of the body, such as the hand, wrist, arm, elbow, shoulder, foot, ankle and pelvis
- DEXA – a bone density scan measures your bone strength
How is osteoporosis treated?
Osteoporosis is most often treated with Bisphosphonates. They stop the bones from breaking down so quickly and decrease the risk of fractured bones. They’re given as a tablet or injection.
Other medications for osteoporosis include:
- Selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) – they help to maintain bone density and reduce risk of fracture
- Parathyroid hormone injections – these stimulate cells that create new bone
- Calcium and vitamin D supplements
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – these are sometimes taken by women going through the menopause. They reduce the risk of breaking a bone during treatment
- Testosterone treatment – when osteoporosis is caused by low levels of male hormones
- Denosumab injections – this prevents bone loss by blocking a certain receptor in the body to decrease bone breakdown
- Teriparatide injection – this is a daily injection that strengthens your bones
Your doctor may also recommend surgery for compression fractures caused by osteoporosis. They will advise on the best surgical option for you.
If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.