An Overview of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a form of arthritis in which the bones suffer a loss of calcium which results in decreased bone density. Loss of calcium and reduced bone density can result in brittle bones and fractures. Women are more prone to developing osteoporosis than men. In particular women over the age of 40, after the onset of menopause, are typical candidates. After menopause, women begin to produce less estrogen.
Estrogen is instrumental in helping the bones stay strong because it helps retain calcium. Many women must supplement their calcium intake to ensure that they retain their bone density. Men too may be affected by osteoporosis, but their numbers are far less than the number of women who are affected. This is partly due to the fact that men generally have more bone mass than women. However, the normal aging process can cause osteoporosis to develop in both men and women. Osteoporosis also tends to affect individuals with decreased muscular activity. Although it remains one of the most common forms of arthritis in the United States, increased education and publicity about this condition has helped raise awareness about the importance of prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.
Diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis can be difficult because many people don't realize they have the condition until they suffer from some kind of injury. Often a broken bone will be the first indication that osteoporosis is present. However, early detection and preventive measures are becoming the standard in women's health care. New advances in bone scanning make it possible for doctors to test their patients bone density. Early detection and treatment can slow or even completely halt the progress of the disease. If you know that osteoporosis runs in your family, leading a healthy lifestyle can help protect you from this condition.
Who is more at risk for developing osteoporosis? Risk factors include being female and roughly menopause age. Caucasian females appear to be at a greater risk. It also appears that being underweight can be a risk factor. Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia may also put you at greater risk for the disease. Finally, a family history of osteoporosis is a major risk factor.
What should you do if you think you are at risk for developing osteoporosis? Visit your doctor to discuss your symptoms and concerns. Your doctor will first take a full medical history and you will have to complete a physical exam. If you appear to be at risk for this condition, your doctor will probably order a blood test analysis to check your calcium levels, your thyroid level, and to rule out other forms of arthritis. He or she may also take X-rays to view your bone density. This is done through a special X-ray machine called a bone densitometer. The bone densitometer can actually see inside your bones. This procedure is a painless and accurate way to measure your bone density and it can help your doctor measure whether you may be at risk of developing osteoporosis.
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