Diagnosing and Treating Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis causes nearly 9 million fractures a year and affects 10% of adults over the age of 65. While there is currently no cure for this disease, there are a number of treatment options that will help patients manage the side effects. Read ahead for a closer look at some steps that you can take to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis, a few of the most common side effects, and the leading treatments for patients who have recently been diagnosed.
Many people think of bones as lifeless calcium tubes that stop growing early on in one’s life. When seen under a microscope, however, bones are actually complex structures comprised of honeycomb chambers that continually regenerate. Osteoporosis is a disease that destroys these chambers faster than they can regenerate. Over the years, this will make the bones much weaker and increase the patient’s risk of a fracture.
A low-calcium diet can increase a patient’s risk of developing osteoporosis, but it is not the only culprit. Hormonal imbalances in both men and women can also affect the density of one’s bones. Studies have revealed that a sedentary lifestyle with little or no exercise is another major risk factor.
Identifying and Treating Osteoporosis
Female patients should schedule annual osteoporosis tests starting around the age of 65 or when they first notice the signs of menopause. Male patients who are in relatively good health can begin scheduling annual tests around the age of 70. Unfortunately, osteoporosis rarely produces any unusual side effects in its earliest stages, and this is what makes testing so vital. Patients who are not tested frequently might not find out that they have this condition until they fracture a bone later on in life.
The most effective way to treat osteoporosis is with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. Doctors often begin by prescribing bisphosphonates to help maintain bone density. They might also suggest hormone treatments to prevent further weakening of the bones. These drugs can be taken as a daily pill or a monthly injection. Common osteoporosis medications include:
- Zoledronic acid (Reclast)
- Alendronate (Fosamax)
- Ibandronate (Boniva)
- Risedronate (Actonel)
The single most common cause of osteoporotic fractures is falling while at home. Many patients will need to make changes around their house such as removing clutter and covering slippery floors with non-slip rugs. You might also want to consider installing grab bars near the bath, toilet, and your bed. All patients must explore their options for low-impact workouts as well. When this disease is caught early, osteoporotic damage can often be prevented with 100 to 150 minutes of exercise per week.