Osteoporosis and Other Bone Conditions
You know you need to take care of your bones. But your lifestyle choices, illness, and occupation can take a toll. Learn about common bone conditions.
What is osteoporosis? Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density, most often experienced by women, over time. Osteoporosis affects close to 32 million American women over 50, and nearly 2 million men between 50 and 70 years old.
How does osteoporosis affect you? As osteoporosis progresses, the bones become more and more brittle. Thinner bones lead to fractures and broken bones, and thin bones are harder to heal. In extreme cases, your bones can be so fragile that bumping into a piece of furniture can cause a fracture. Osteoporosis can also decrease your height and put stress on your back.
What causes osteoporosis? Menopause is one of the primary causes of osteoporosis in women. The female hormone estrogen protects women’s bones. During menopause this hormone decreases sharply. Some women lose up to 20 percent of their bone mass during menopause.
But men with certain conditions are at risk too. Cystic fibrosis, asthma, low testosterone levels, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can all lead to osteoporosis in men. Alcohol abuse and tobacco usage lead to significant damage to your bones, for both men and women.
Are you at risk? If you answer yes to any of the following questions, talk to your doctor about a bone density test.
- Are you over the age of 65?
- Do you have a history of bone fractures as an adult or do you have a close relative with a history of bone fractures?
- Do you have a family history of osteoporosis?
- Did you have an early menopause or removal of your ovaries?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have a small-boned, thin body frame?
- Are you physically inactive?
- Are calcium-rich foods, like dairy or leafy green vegetables, limited in your diet? Have you been told you're vitamin D deficient?
- Do you consume alcohol on a regular basis?
- Are you on certain medicines, such as steroids or anticonvulsants?
How can you prevent osteoporosis? Regular exercise and a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D strengthen your bones and prevent damage from osteoporosis. If you’re over the age of 50, you should get 1,500 milligrams of calcium and 1,000 milligrams of Vitamin D daily. Foods like eggs, cheese, low-fat milk, fish, and leafy vegetables are good sources of both calcium and Vitamin D. Spending 20 to 25 minutes in the sun is also a beneficial way to get Vitamin D.
Ask your doctor about an osteoporosis
bone screening to detect osteoporosis early.
The most common test is the dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA or DEXA) test. This measures your bone density using X-ray imagery.
What are some other bone conditions?
- Acromegaly: Excess growth hormone production causes bones in the face, hand, and feet to grow too large.
- Cancer: Common bone cancers include leukemia, osteosarcoma, Ewing sarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocytoma, and chondrosarcoma. Learn more about cancer.
- Fibrous Dysplasia: Swelling and abnormal growth of bones of the skull, face, ribs, upper arms, pelvis, thighs, and shins.
- Heel spurs: Calcium deposits that form on the base of the heel bone.
- Osteogenesis Imperfecta: A genetic disorder that interrupts the production of collagen, which weakens your bones.
- Osteomalacia: Weak and abnormal bones caused by a defect in the way your body processes vitamin D.
- Osteomyelitis: A bacterial infection of bone requiring antibiotics and sometimes surgery.
- Paget's Disease: Thick and enlarged, but brittle, bones caused by a malfunction in the cells that repair your bones.
- Perthes' Disease: The head of a child’s femur (thigh bone) deteriorates because of a lack of blood supply.
- Rickets: Weak and easily fractured bones in children due to a lack of vitamin D.