Osteoporosis, which literally means “porous bone,” is a disease of the skeleton in which the bones gradually lose density and begin to deteriorate. People with osteoporosis have brittle bones and an increased susceptibility to fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an estimated 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and 18 million more have low bone mass, placing them at an increased risk for the disease. Osteoporosis is common among the elderly, but the disease can strike at any age. Although eighty percent of those affected by osteoporosis are women, particularly menopausal and post-menopausal women, men are affected as well.
Osteoporosis is a potentially crippling disease. The latest estimates from the NIH indicate that osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures annually, including 300,000 hip fractures, roughly 700,000 spinal fractures, 250,000 wrist fractures, and more than 300,000 fractures at other sites on the body. Fortunately, there are many medications and alternative therapies to help treat the condition. Medical experts agree, however, that most Americans can avoid osteoporosis altogether by eating well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and living a healthy lifestyle.
Signs and Symptoms
Osteoporosis is sometimes considered a “silent disease” because bone loss can occur without symptoms. In fact, people may not know they have brittle bones unless a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes one of their bones to fracture or a vertebra (one of the 33 bony segments that form the spine) to collapse. Signs of a collapsed vertebra include:
- Back pain
- Loss of height
- Kyphosis — a spine deformity characterized by a hump back
Although many people think of the skeleton as an unchanging structure, bones are living growing tissues. Bone consists of a strong, flexible mesh of collagen fibers (proteins that form a soft framework) and calcium phosphate (a mineral that hardens the framework). Throughout a person’s lifetime, new bone is added to the skeleton and old bone is removed (resorption). During the early years of life, new bone is added faster than old bone is removed. As a result, bones become larger, stronger, and more dense until they reach peak bone mass (maximum bone density and strength).
Peak bone mass tends to occur between the ages of 30 and 35. After this age, however, the bones lose increasing amounts of protein and minerals — more than they can build up — and the bones become thin and porous. The same is true for menopausal women. During menopause, estrogen levels drop. Studies have shown that the female hormone helps protect against bone loss. Without the protective effects of estrogen, menopausal women are at an increased risk for developing osteoporosis.
Other than age and menopause, causes of osteoporosis can include:
- Long term use of certain medications, particularly steroids and thyroid medications (see Warnings and Precautions section)
- Cushing’s syndrome (a condition caused by an excess of a steroid hormone called cortisol)
- Kidney failure
- Diseases of the thyroid or adrenal glands
- Deficiencies in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin K, and/or magnesium (it is important to note that very high intake of vitamin A may actually increase the risk of osteoporosis)
- Anorexia nervosa
- Hypogonadism (abnormally diminished function of the sexual organs, such as the testes in men)
- Elevated levels of prolactin (a hormone responsible for lactation)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Kidney failure
- Rare genetic disorders such as osteogenesis imperfecta, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and Marfan’s syndrome
Integrative Medicine Treatment Options
We combine the best of conventional medicine with the best of complementary and alternative therapies to give you optimal results.
Here are some options we use at Alliance Integrative Medicine LOCATED IN Cincinnati, Ohio
- Herbal Therapies, Supplements & Medication
- Nutritional Counseling
Our osteoporosis patients come to us from Indian Hill, Hyde Park, Loveland, Westchester/Liberty Township and Mason as well as Blue Ash, Finneytown, Reading, Springdale, Terrace Park and from all over the U.S.