The Stages of Osteoporosis

As you get older, your bones naturally begin to deteriorate, much like many other things in your body. However, in some instances, they become weak and brittle much faster than normal, which is often due to a condition known as osteoporosis. This problem can lead to a number of issues, including painful and debilitating fractures.

At the Spine and Orthopedic Center of New Mexico, located in Roswell, our team has the expertise to help you when you’re at risk for osteoporosis, and offers treatment and diagnostic tools.

Understanding osteoporosis

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, osteoporosis affects 20% of women over the age of 50 and 5% of men of the same age. This disease affects the overall health and strength of your bones, and if left untreated, it can be detrimental to your health.

To understand osteoporosis, you need to first understand how your bones work. Your bones are a living, growing part of your body. They are in a constant state of remodeling. This basically means they’re always breaking down and rebuilding themselves with new tissue.

Before the age of 30, your bones rebuild faster than they break down, giving you more bone mass than you need. This allows for stored bone for later in life, when bone remodeling starts to slow down.

 

After the age of 30, your bones begin to break down faster than they can rebuild. While this is a normal part of getting older, it also puts you at risk for osteoporosis later on.

 

Osteoporosis occurs when your bones break down significantly faster than new bone is formed. This leads to a major decrease in your overall bone mass, and ultimately, weak and very brittle bones. The main consequence of osteoporosis is fractures, especially in your vertebrae and hips.

Are there different stages?

Osteoporosis is essentially a silent disease — meaning you don’t usually know you have it until you break a bone. This often happens in the later stages, and there aren’t any early symptoms.

There are four different stages of osteoporosis. Each stage is measured by your actual bone density, which is an indicator of this disease. The four stages of osteoporosis include:

Stage 1

The first stage in osteoporosis occurs when your bone loss and bone formation occur at the same rate, meaning you no longer make more bone than you’re losing. At this stage, there are no symptoms, and your bone density scores are above -1.

Stage 2

In stage two, you’ve entered the time when your bone loss is happening faster than your new bone can form. You still won’t have any symptoms, and your bone density scores may be lower, possibly indicating osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis, and your bone density is anywhere from -1 to -2.5.

Stage 3

Stage three is when you’re considered to have osteoporosis. In this stage, your bone loss far exceeds your bone growth, putting you at a higher risk for fractures. Unless you experience a fracture, you likely won’t have any other symptoms in this stage, except for a bone density of -2.5 or lower if you’re tested.

Stage 4

In this stage, your osteoporosis is very severe. Your risk of fractures is higher than in stage three, and you may actually have symptoms. The severe bone loss in stage 4 leads to changes in your spine, such as a stooped posture,and loss of height. You’ll likely have one or more fractures when you’ve entered stage four.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

Because osteoporosis is a silent disease, the Spine and Orthopedic Center of New Mexico Team screens for it routinely, especially if you’re a woman over 50, or are at a high risk for the condition. To do this, he asks about your health history and performs a physical exam. 

A physical exam alone can’t tell definitively if you have osteoporosis. You’ll also need a bone mineral density scan. This measures the density of bone in fracture-prone areas, like your hip and spine.

A common way to measure your bone density is through a test known as a DXA scan. This stands for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan. This type of scan is noninvasive, and involves low levels of radiation to scan different areas of bone in your body.

The scan is quick and pain-free. You lie on a comfortable table, and the scanner passes over your body, measuring the density of your bones as it goes. Traditionally, the measurement of your hip and spine are the most reliable in detecting osteoporosis.

If you’re concerned about your risk for osteoporosis, don’t hesitate to call our office at 575-623-9101 or book an appointment with one of our providers online today.

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