Many women develop osteoporosis, a potentially crippling disease, without being diagnosed or treated.
As we age, our bone mass declines faster than new bone can form. This can result in osteoporosis, or “porous bones,” a potentially crippling disease that makes bones weak and susceptible to fractures. Osteoporosis can affect men and women of any age, but occurs mostly in women after menopause. It is called the “silent disease” because loss of bone mass has no symptoms and usually causes no pain until a bone fractures (breaks). The hip, spine, and wrist bones are the ones most affected by osteoporosis. Hip fractures result in disability and loss of mobility and independence. Spinal fractures cause a loss of height, severe back pain, and curving of the shoulders and spine.
Eighty percent of those affected by osteoporosis are women. Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis because they have less bone tissue than men. At menopause, women rapidly lose more bone mass as their estrogen levels decline. Osteoporosis is a major health issue for women. It is estimated that 50 percent of all women will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime — greater than a woman’s combined risk of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer.
The cause of osteoporosis is unknown, but a number of risk factors contribute to the development of bone loss, including:
Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, it can be prevented and treated. Many risk factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and smoking can be avoided. It is never too late to begin taking steps to prevent osteoporosis or to slow or stop its progress, including:
Osteoporosis usually does not have any symptoms and is not recognized until a bone fracture occurs. At least 25 percent of bone loss has to occur before osteoporosis can be diagnosed from a routine X-ray. Procedures known as single- or dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry are the most accurate measures of overall bone loss.
Bone Densitometry is a safe, simple, and painless test that can diagnose osteoporosis and monitor your rate of bone loss and response to therapy. A specialized X-ray detector scans your hip, spine, and sometimes your forearm, and then calculates the density of your bones. The results are compared to a database of other patients of similar age and sex and to a database of young, normal bone density values. Bone Densitometry testing involves no injections or disrobing and takes only minutes to complete. A full report is given to your physician.
There can be some risks involved with certain diagnostic procedures, and in most cases they are relatively minor. Please ask your doctor to discuss the risks and benefits so that you are fully informed about any tests you may have.