Osteoporosis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Evidence Based Article 📄
This article has been based on relevant and up-to-date scientific studies. Our writers are unbiased and objective and present the facts as they are known. Numbers in brackets within the article refer to sources included in the reference list at the end of the article.

One of the widely-known bone diseases, osteoporosis affect many people worldwide. This condition weakens the bones, making them so fragile that they can easily break.

The trickiest thing about osteoporosis is that people suffering from this condition usually don’t experience any severe symptoms until a bone fracture happens. There are a lot of causes for osteoporosis but luckily you can prevent and treat it even at home. Read on.

What’s osteoporosis?

Affecting people of any ages, osteoporosis is a serious bone disease that is preventable. There are the small spaces inside healthy bones, just like a honeycomb. The disease makes these small spaces larger, causing the bones to become weak and lose their density. Moreover, the outside of the bones becomes thinner and weaker.

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Older people, especially women, are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than people younger 50 years old, albeit there are many cases where 20 something people suffer from osteoporosis too.

People diagnosed with osteoporosis have an increased risk of bone breaks, or fractures, while performing daily activities like walking, standing, or cleaning the house. The hips, ribs, and the bones in the spine and wrists are the more commonly affected bones than others.

What are the leading causes of osteoporosis?

There are a growing number of factors that trigger osteoporosis, yet the major ones stay the same. They are:

  • Menopause: Women around the ages of 45 to 55 years who are dealing with menopause tend to suffer from osteoporosis because of the change in their hormone levels. Men at the ages of 45 to 55 years also start experiencing bone loss too but at the much slower rate than women.
  • Age: The body replaces the old bones with the new ones throughout your life. However, at the age of 30, the body begins to break down the bones faster than replacing them. This leads to poor bone density, making your bones more fragile, increasing the risk of bone breakage.
  • Weak immunity and poor nutrition, particularly associated with bowel disease or chronic inflammation. Malabsorption from bowel diseases like celiac sprue, which is usually associated with serious skin diseases, including dermatitis herpetiformis, can also lead to osteoporosis.
  • Calcium and vitamin D deficiencies. Both vitamins are vital for bone health.
  • Hypogonadism (reduced testosterone levels in men) and decreased estrogen levels in women can also trigger the bone disease.
  • Chronic inflammation because of the chronic inflammatory diseases, including liver disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Amenorrhea that affects women who experience very vigorous workout training and women with an extremely reduced body fat, especially those suffering from anorexia nervosa).
  • Chemotherapy that triggers premature menopause because of its toxic and prolonged impact on the ovaries.
  • Hyperparathyroidism, hyperthyroidism, stroke, and other conditions can lead to osteoporosis.
  • A prolonged intake of certain medications can also cause osteoporosis. Corticosteroids, phenobarbital, phenytoin, and heparin are the most common triggers.
  • Certain Inherited diseases and conditions of connective tissue, such as osteoporosis-pseudoglioma syndrome, homocystinuria, osteogenesis imperfecta and skin disorders like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Marfan syndrome.
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What are the risk factors for osteoporosis?

Most of the risk factors can be controlled, so indicating the warning signs with the following risk factors can be the most effective way to keep your bones healthy. The most common risk factors are:

  • small-boned frame;
  • low body weight;
  • smoking;
  • frequent alcohol consumption;
  • physical inactivity;
  • poor nutrition;
  • If someone in your family had or has osteoporosis, you are at risk as well.
  • being Asian or Caucasian;
  • being an older adult;
  • being a female.

What are the symptoms and signs of osteoporosis?

You might be suffering from osteoporosis without experiencing any symptoms for years since this condition doesn’t trigger serious symptoms until fractures occur or a bone breaks.

Not to mention that certain osteoporotic fractures might not be detected for years due to a lack of symptoms. A painful fracture is the only visible sign of osteoporosis. The location of this pain highly depends on the fracture location. The osteoporosis symptoms in males are similar to those in females.

Vertebra or fractures of the spine can lead to a severe “heavy weight” pain that occurs in the back and the body sides. The repeated fractures of the spine can eventually cause a chronic lower back pain, curving of the spine, and a loss of height because of the vertebrae collapse. People with the vertebrae collapse have a “dowager hump” or a hunched-back upper back appearance, and it’s more visible in older women than men.

A minimal trauma or a stress fracture that happens during the course of a daily activity can be a sign of osteoporosis. For instance, people diagnosed with osteoporosis have a higher risk of a stress fracture of the foot while stepping off a curb or walking.

Any fall can lead to some serious hip fractures. If you have osteoporosis, the healing process will be very slow and even unsuccessful after surgical repair due to a slow healing process of the bones.

Since osteoporosis is hard to diagnose, it’s easy to develop a severe form of a condition. The symptoms of it are a fracture from a strong cough or sneeze or a slight fall. The loss of height, and neck and back pain are the symptoms of a compression fracture. It means that there’s damage in one of the vertebrae in the back or neck, which is too weak to sustain the normal pressure in the spine.

What is senile osteoporosis?

The separate kind of osteoporosis, senile osteoporosis is only caused by aging – either natural or premature. The global statistics provided by the International Osteoporosis Foundation reported that nearly one-tenth of females aged 60 suffer from osteoporosis and two-fifths of females aged 80 suffer from senile osteoporosis.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

First of all, a doctor will perform a physical exam and check out your medical history. They might request tests of your urine and blood to indicate the causes of bone loss.

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A bone density test is needed in case a doctor will notice the signs of osteoporosis. It’s a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry test or bone densitometry that involves using X-rays to find out the bone density in the spine, hips, or wrists – the areas that are most prone to osteoporosis. The bone densitometry test is pain-free and takes 10 to 30 minutes to complete.

How is osteoporosis treated?

The lifestyle changes and certain medications are needed to treat osteoporosis. The lifestyle changes usually include improving the intake of vitamin D and calcium and stay active during the day.

The lifestyle changes are a must since there is no cure for both mild and severe osteoporosis. However, the proper and timely treatment helps to relieve the symptoms of osteoporosis and strengthen the bones. Both medical and homemade treatments help to delay the bone breakdown in the body and improve the growth of the new bones.

The medications that are generally used to relieve the symptoms of osteoporosis include zoledronic acid, ibandronate, and alendronate. They help to stop the bone mass loss. Calcitonin salmon, teriparatide, denosumab, and raloxifene are some other medications that aid in stimulating bone growth or preventing bone loss.

Hormone therapy for women and testosterone for men are used to prevent the bone density loss.

How can osteoporosis be treated at home?

It’s not a secret that prescription medications do more harm than good. They provide the horrible side effects, albeit still help to treat the condition. If you want to avoid those side effects, your doctor may suggest you try some home treatment methods.

First of all, there are several natural supplements like black cohosh, soy, and red clover, which may aid in boosting the bone health and relieve the general symptoms of osteoporosis. But, supplements can have some side effects as well, so be sure to consult a doctor first.  If you take any medications, it’s better to avoid supplements as they can interact.

Secondly, it’s important to become aware of what you’re putting into your body each day. Healthy eating, especially plant-based diets, have been shown to demonstrate a positive effect on the symptoms of osteoporosis. People who eat healthy are less likely to develop osteoporosis.

In order to support your bone health, you should incorporate plenty of essential nutrients into your daily meals. The two most critical ones are vitamin D and calcium.

The body craves calcium to keep the bones strong and it requires vitamin D to better absorb calcium. Magnesium, protein, zinc, and vitamin K are other nutrients that help to boost bone health.

But, it’s also important to supply your body with all the other nutrients. Talk to a doctor or a professional nutritionist to create an eating plan that will be specific for your condition. Most people with osteoporosis have reported a great relief after sticking to a special diet.

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When dealing with osteoporosis, most sufferers make a mistake by avoiding physical activity. While you should be extra careful, exercise is still essential. Your doctor might recommend you to perform specific weight-bearing exercises, which involve either your arms or your feet fixed to the floor or ground.

Depending on your form of osteoporosis, your doctor may also recommend you to do exercises, such as weight training that involves working with dumbbells, resistance bands, and a resistance exercise machine, as well as climbing stairs, and other resistance training exercises like pushups, squats, and leg presses.

These exercises will improve your coordination and balance, along with your overall well-being. Just be careful and don’t overdo it. It’s recommended to hire a professional trainer and tell them about your diagnosis.

Essential oils can also be used to treat osteoporosis at home. Applying natural essential oils like orange, ginger, sage, thyme, and rosemary topically on the affected areas can help to relieve the osteoporosis-related pain, improve your bone density, and promote a faster bone repair. Combine a few drops of essential oil with a carrier oil like avocado or coconut oil and put the mixture on the painful areas. You can also try using cypress, wintergreen, fir, peppermint, helichrysum, lemongrass, or eucalyptus essential oil. All of them boast powerful anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

How can osteoporosis be prevented?

There are tons of risk factors and causes of osteoporosis that are hard to control, prevent, and manage. These include having a family history of severe or chronic osteoporosis, getting older, and being a woman.

Some other risk factors can be prevented by ditching bad habits like smoking and drinking, keeping the hormones at bay, increasing the intake of vitamin D and calcium, and performing weight-bearing exercises. Many scientists suggest skipping gluten as it can worsen the condition and trigger the consequences.

If you have an increased risk factor of developing osteoporosis, start preventing it right away. Check out your vitamin D and calcium levels to ensure you’re not deficient in them. If you are, supplementation might be required. Vitamin D deficiency is alarmingly common these days. Even though this vitamin comes from foods and your skin that is exposed to the sunlight, there are some vitamin D supplements to consider too.

Also, be sure you get enough sleep at night. Your body should be filled with energy to tackle the disease. Hydrate your body throughout the date and reduce your meat consumption to the minimum, especially red meat.

Remember the sooner you detect that you’re suffering from osteoporosis, the easier it will be to fight it. Osteoporosis is a serious disease that has the serious consequences. It causes painful fractures that take a lot of time to treat and heal.

For example, a hip fracture treatment usually includes staying in bed for months, increasing your risk of pneumonia, blood clots, and many other diseases and disorders.