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Health Topics - Women's Health - Osteroporosis

Osteoporosis is known as a silent condition, and the end result can cause loss of independence and a reduced quality of life. Osteoporosis is the reduction of bone mass and the way that bone is made.

It occurs when there is insufficient new bone being made to replace older bone. The harder outer shell of the bones becomes thinner and the inner bone becomes less dense. It leads to a lace-like bone structure. This results in bones being weaker and susceptible to breaking or fracturing.

The most common breaks occur in the wrist, hip and spine. These breaks may be as a result of a minor fall or accident, and further on with the disease, fractures may be spontaneous. 

Both men and women can get osteoporosis, however it affects more that 50% of women and nearly a third of men over the age of 60.

What are the risk factors?
Risk factors for developing osteoporosis may include:

  • insufficient calcium in the diet i.e. milk, cheese, dairy products etc.
  • if you are a smoker
  • drink more than a couple of alcoholic drinks a day
  • drink a high amount of caffeine e.g. coffee, high energy drinks
  • if you thin or have small bones
  • do not get enough exercise
  • have a family history of the disease

An interesting article in the British Medical Journal about Osteoporosis discusses a study where ultrasound was added to risk factor inquiries for Osteoporosis on 200 women. Ultrasound scanning performed better than risk factor inquiry for predicting osteoporosis. A combination of the two methods identified 90% of the women with osteoporosis and increased prediction for those without osteoporosis.

How is it detected?
Osteoporosis can be detected with a DXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry). It is a non-invasive, meaning that no needles or instruments are placed through the skin or body. You can remain fully dressed and the tests including you answering an important clinical questionnaire using take no more than 30 minutes.

What is the treatment?
Treatment varies with each woman and depends on factors such as age, medical history, and the severity of the condition. Treatment may be suggested such as:

  • HRT
  • calcium supplements
  • vitamin D supplements which increased the absorption rate of calcium

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