Osteoporosis is a condition in which there isn’t enough new bone to replace lost bone material. Bone material is constantly breaking down and being replaced. In patients who have osteoporosis, however, the rate at which new bone material is created falls behind the rate of deterioration. As bone material is lost and not fully replaced, bones can eventually become brittle and weak. They can become so brittle that a simple fall -- or even just bending over or coughing vigorously -- can cause them to fracture. Most of the fractures that osteoporosis causes are in the hips, spine, and wrists, but these are not the only places where osteoporosis-related fractures can occur.
Osteoporosis is caused by bone material being lost faster than it is replenished. For most people, bone material peaks in their 20s and then production of new bone material declines. Whether a person’s bones will ever decline to a point that they develop osteoporosis depends on a number of factors, such as the following:
Additionally, gender, race and family history can also influence a person’s chances of developing osteoporosis. Women, people of Caucasian and Asian descent, and people who have a family history of osteoporosis are at greater risk than others.
Osteoporosis is diagnosed by a medical doctor. A doctor will use a test that determines bone density by using low-level X-rays to check whether a patient has osteoporosis. The test is painless and typically done as an outpatient procedure. It doesn’t take too long because a doctor can tell what a patient’s average bone density is by checking only a few bones.
Doctors have several different ways to treat osteoporosis. Depending on a patient’s particular case and other health considerations, a physician might recommend medication, hormone therapy treatment, and taking calcium. Reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking can also help lessen the effects of osteoporosis.