Most people think of osteoporosis as something that causes bone fractures and loss of height. In reality, there is much more to it. Bone constantly remodels or rebuilds itself. As old bone is broken down, new bone replaces it. When a person loses more bone than he or she rebuilds, it sets the stage for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis also occurs when more bone than normal has broken down.
What is Osteoporosis?
Linguists translate the word, ‘osteoporosis,’ as ‘porous bones.’ A porous bone has holes. All bone has cavities that are filled with marrow and blood, but in osteoporosis, the normal bony cavities grow larger. As the holes enlarge, the bones become fragile, spongy, and more apt to break. Then, all it takes is a small accident or trauma to trigger a bone fracture. This systemic disorder can produce fractures throughout the entire spine and skeletal structure.
Women are more at Risk
Women generally have less bone mass, but they are more likely to develop osteoporosis. Studies have shown that after 40 a woman’s bone mass decreases 1 to 5 percent yearly. In contrast, men over 40 lose less than 1 percent each year. This difference may result from the sudden loss of estrogen due to menopause. Estrogen is a sex hormone that is instrumental in building healthy bone.
Loss of Height
Remember how your grandparents seemed to shrink in size? We expect that people will become smaller as they age. Height loss may be related to fractures in the spinal column. Between 60 to 70 percent of women over the age of 65 are affected by at least one of these vertebral compression fractures, as they are known. Moreover, studies show that 20 percent of individuals who have a vertebral fracture will sustain a second fracture within the year.
Vertebral Compression Fracture
Acute onset of back pain in the elderly is often the result of a vertebral compression fracture. It is sometimes due to a minor fall, but often times normal activities of daily living can cause it. Osteoporosis makes the bone brittle and it does not take much to end up with a painful fracture. An MRI of the part of the spine that is hurting is usually needed to diagnose an acute compression fracture. The treatment options include bracing, pain medications, and if this is unsuccessful, balloon vertebral augmentation, or Kyphoplasty, can be offered. Balloon vertebral augmentation, or Kyphoplasty, is a minimally invasive procedure proven to relieve pain, increase mobility, and improve quality of life without open surgery.
Facts on Fractures:
- Persons with compression fractures have a 9 times higher relative risk of death than their healthy counterparts.
- As an American citizen you may be one of the approximately 1 million people annually who have a fracture related to osteoporosis.
- Each year Americans experience nearly 700,000 vertebral compression fractures.
- About 250,000 wrist fractures occur every year in the United States.
Hip fractures are common in the USA:
- Hip fractures trigger 300,000 hospitalizations each year.
- For women, the risk of hip fracture equals the combined risks of developing breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers.
- Forecasts show that by 2050, men will experience half of all hip fractures.