Signs And Symptoms Of Osteoporosis (Bone Loss)

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Symptoms Of Osteoporosis (Bone Loss)

Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by bone loss which leaves your bones fragile and prone to fractures. It’s a silent condition and you may not observe any symptoms till a fracture occurs, most commonly in the hips, spine or wrist. But compression fractures associated with this condition need not necessarily cause pain when they occur. Osteoporosis can also result in loss of height, a stooped back, and tooth loss.

Rapid bone loss – another sour lemon that life throws at you as you age! This happens when the rate at which old bone is removed from your skeleton starts to outpace the rate at which new bone is added. For some people, bone deteriorates at such a fast pace that they develop osteoporosis, a condition where your bones become fragile and are more likely to fracture. And unfortunately, this is a disturbingly common problem, with estimates indicating that 53 million or more people in the Unites States either already suffer from or have a high risk for osteoporosis.1 Women are more likely to get osteoporosis since hormonal changes that come with menopause can increase the rate of bone loss. Other factors like smoking, prolonged bedrest, alcohol consumption, and a diet that is poor in calcium and vitamin D can also increase your risk of getting this condition.

In the initial stages, osteoporosis may not cause any symptoms. In fact, osteoporosis is known as a silent disease because many people do not realize that their bones have become fragile till they fracture. Here are some signs that eventually crop up if you have osteoporosis:2

Easy Fracturing Of Bones

People with osteoporosis are at an increased risk of fractures because their bones are weak. In fact, it is estimated that 1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 5 men are at risk for an osteoporotic fracture.3 You may find that minor strains or falls can cause your bones to fracture. The most common fractures associated with osteoporosis occur at the hips, spine or wrist.

In the spine, weakened spinal vertebrae may spontaneously collapse or they may fracture when a small force is applied such as when you bend forward or lift something. These are the most common fractures that are seen in osteoporosis and usually they occur in the middle of the back or lower.

In the wrist, a fracture can cause bruising and tenderness. You might also find that that your index finger is numb at the tip or that you find it difficult to pinch your little finger and thumb together if your median nerve gets damaged during the fracture.4

In the hips, a fracture may mean that you can’t move your leg, stand, or walk. And when you lie down you may find that one leg may look shorter. Bruising and swelling may also develop. However, do keep in mind that if it’s a small fracture, your leg may appear normal and you may still be able to walk. If the fracture causes a lot of blood leakage then you may also feel lightheaded.5

In long bones, like the bone of your legs and arms fracture tends to occur at the end of the bones and not eh middle.

Pain

Osteoporosis usually causes pain only when a fracture occurs. And pain is not a given when a fracture occurs due to osteoporosis. Compression fractures – which usually develop in the spine and are caused when pressure is applied to bone and it collapses – are common in osteoporosis. But 2 out of 3 people who have a compression fracture due to this condition don’t experience pain when the fracture happens. However, sometimes, a compression fracture can cause a sudden and sharp pain in your back when it occurs. Or you may find that pain develops gradually. The pain can be dull and constant and it may get worse when you walk, stand, bend, or remain seated for a long period.6 Spinal fractures can result in lingering or chronic pain.7

Where hip fractures are concerned you may experience mild or severe pain depending on the severity of the fracture. Sometimes when you break your hip you experience pain in your knee rather than your hip. This is because your knees and hips share parts of the nerve pathways that transmit pain signals.8

Loss Of Height

Fractures in the bones of your spine can cause significant loss of height. Over time, you could find yourself shorter by as much as half a foot or 6 inches.9 However, don’t wait till things get so bad. A loss of around 1.2 inches in height is significant and warrants medical attention.10

Stooped Back

You might have noticed that some older people have a characteristically stooped or bent appearance. That’s another sign of osteoporosis. It happens because many bones in the spine have fractured making it difficult for the spine to support the body’s weight.11 This hunched posture can result in muscle strain. It can also exert pressure on the spinal cord, which in rare instances, may cause numbness, a tingling sensation, weakness, trouble walking, or loss or control over the bladder or bowel.12

Tooth Loss

According to experts, there’s a link between bone loss in your jaws and osteoporosis. And since your jaw bones anchor your teeth tooth loss can occur if they become more fragile. Research suggests that women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to suffer from tooth loss when compared to those without this condition.13

Diagnosing And Treating Osteoporosis

Your doctor may recommend a bone mineral density test to evaluate your bone mass and determine if you have osteoporosis. If you do have this condition, proper nutrition – particularly sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D – as well as exercise that strengthens your bones can be helpful. Medication that can stop or slow down bone loss is also available.14

References   [ + ]

1, 14.Osteoporosis Overview. National Institutes of Health.
2, 10.Osteoporosis. Merck Manual.
3.WHAT IS OSTEOPOROSIS?. International Osteoporosis Foundation.
4.Wrist Fractures. Merck Manual.
5.Hip Fractures. Merck Manual.
6.Compression Fractures of the Spine. Merck Manual.
7.Osteoporosis. National Health Service.
8.Hip Fractures. Merck Manual.
9, 12.Compression fractures of the back. National Institutes of Health.
11.Osteoporosis. National Health Service.
13.Oral Health and Bone Disease. National Institutes of Health.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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