What if early detection could save you months of pain and suffering? Not to mention the hassle of doctor’s appointments, and pricey medical bills.
Osteoporosis affects over 200 million people. It can cause serious medical issues including bone fractures.
But there is still some good news.
With early detection, proper lifestyle changes, and good medical care, the threat of osteoporosis can be reduced.
Knowing the signs of osteoporosis is the first step to protecting yourself.
What is Osteoporosis?
As we get older, our bones can break down and become increasingly brittle and fragile. Small holes can develop in the bones, which is the cause of osteoporosis. Eventually, due to the delicate nature of the bones, they are at a higher risk of breaking.
The hip, spine, and wrist are common areas for the bones to fracture. The weaker the bones, the less trauma is needed to fracture them.
Osteoporosis can also result in loss of height due to bones being worn down.
Osteoporosis affects both men and women. However, post-menopausal women are more likely than any other group to be diagnosed with osteoporosis.
This is not to be confused with osteoarthritis which affects the joints rather than the bones. If you want to learn about the difference between the symptoms and treatment of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, read more now.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
Bone can renew itself. If you are young and healthy, new bone is created faster than the old bone is worn down.
However, with age, bones do not renew at the same rate. Therefore, there is more bone being broken down than renewed, resulting in a decrease in overall bone mass.
There are several risk factors for osteoporosis, including age and a family history of osteoporosis. Dietary and exercise habits can also contribute to the risk of osteoporosis.
What Are the Signs of Osteoporosis?
If you are concerned that you or someone you know has symptoms of osteoporosis, it is good to be informed of what you are looking for. Below are five of the most common signs of osteoporosis.
1. Changes to Your Fingernail Strength
Believe it or not, weak or fragile fingernails can be an early sign of osteoporosis. There is a correlation between the strength of bones and fingernails. If your fingernails are wearing down, your bones might be too.
Keep in mind that that are other factors that could be causing breakable fingernails. So by itself, this symptom does not indicate a diagnosis of osteoporosis.
2. Back Pain
Back pain may be an indication that bones are becoming weaker. This could be a result of a small fracture or a collapsed vertebra.
Again, back pain alone does not indicate osteoporosis, but it can be one of the signs.
3. Change In Posture
People with osteoporosis may present with a curved upper back or an overall stooped posture. A dramatic curve of the upper back is also known as kyphosis.
Unfortunately, this condition can also cause pain in the neck, back, and shoulders.
4. Loss of Height
A person with osteoporosis may notice that they are not as tall as they used to be. When bones break down it can cause compression fractures. Several small compression fractures can happen before a person even notices the change in height.
5. Poor Grip Strength
Grip strength refers to a person’s ability to firmly grasp an object. Osteoporosis can reduce a person’s grip strength because of the weakness in the bones of the hands and wrist.
Poor grip strength makes is challenging to pick up or hold items without dropping them.
These are five of the less severe signs of osteoporosis. However, in late-stage cases of osteoporosis, a person may experience a bone fracture.
If a bone is fractured fairly easily it can be a sign of osteoporosis. If a minor trauma, such as a short fall or bumping against something causes a fracture, it may indicate weak bones.
Should I Be Screened for Osteoporosis?
If you have experienced the symptoms above, you may want to talk to your doctor about osteoporosis.
Generally, men and women over the age of 50 should talk to their doctors about osteoporosis. They can then recommend whether or not you should be screened. If you have a family history of osteoporosis or are post-menopausal women, it is likely that your doctor will suggest regular screening.
If you are over the age of 50 and have recently had a fracture, your doctor may suggest screening as well.
Additionally, if you are taking other medications that put you at a higher risk of osteoporosis, your doctor may want to monitor your bone density and potentially screen you as well.
If a doctor is concerned about your present or future risk of osteoporosis they will likely take a thorough medical history and a physical examination. They may request a bone density test which is similar to an x-ray.
How is Osteoporosis Treated?
Treating osteoporosis early is the best way to combat the negative effects.
If a doctor believes that you are not at high risk of bone fracture, he or she may suggest changes to lifestyle and diet before trying medication.
However, osteoporosis is typically treated with medication that targets bone mass. Osteoporosis medications improve bone mass by controlling hormonal responses that facilitate bone growth.
Reducing the risk of falls is another important measure to take if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. The trauma and recovery from a fracture can be very difficult.
Better and Stronger
If you know that you are at a high risk of developing osteoporosis you can ask a medical professional for strategies to mitigate your risk. Diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes may prevent your bone density from deteriorating, and protect you from osteoporosis.
If you are an older adult or you are caring for an older adult, the best thing you can do is be aware of the signs of osteoporosis. Early medical intervention will likely improve the overall quality of life even with osteoporosis.
If you want to read more about health or other helpful life tips, check out our other blogs!