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Osteoporosis - A Silent Disease affecting most post-menopausal women

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20 Aug, 2018

Osteoporosis causes weakening of the bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It is also known as ‘silent disease’ as it gradually develops over several years and is often only diagnosed when a minor accident/fall or sudden impact causes a bone fracture. Even a daily task like walking can cause severe pain and disability, due to a broken bone.

Hip fractures, wrist fractures, and fractures of the spinal bones (vertebrae) are the most common injuries in people with osteoporosis. However, fractures can also occur in different bones of the body like those in the arm or pelvis. In certain cases, a cough or sneeze can lead to a rib fracture or the partial collapse of one of the bones of the spine. Fractures due to Osteoporosis usually cause severe pain, suffering, disability, and possibly can even be fatal for the affected patients.

There is no pain related to osteoporosis until a fracture occurs, but fractures of the spine are a common cause of chronic pain. Some older people also develop a characteristic bent (stooped) posture due to osteoporosis. This stooped posture happens as a result of fractures in the spinal bones, making it difficult to support the weight of the body.

 

The number of women with osteoporosis is increasing in India. Estimates from various studies suggest that of the 230 million Indians expected to be over the age of 50 years in 2015, 20%, i.e. approx. 46 million, are women with osteoporosis. Thus, osteoporosis is a major public health problem in Indian women.

  • Low calcium intakes
  • vitamin D deficiency,
  • increasing longevity,
  • sex inequality,
  • early menopause,
  • genetic predisposition,
  • lack of diagnostic facilities, and
  • poor knowledge of bone health have contributed toward the high prevalence of osteoporosis

Though Osteoporosis is more prevalent in elderly people, it is more common in women than in men. This is due to the hormone estrogen, which is responsible for maintaining bone density in women. After menopause, estrogen levels drop considerably in women which results in a decrease in bone mineral density (BMD).

The denser your bones, the stronger and less likely they are to fracture (break).

 

Other risk factors for developing osteoporosis include:

  • high dosage of drugs, medicines, and steroids
  • removal of ovaries- oophorectomy
  • a family history of osteoporosis
  • eating disorders, like anorexia or bulimia 
  • Passive, inactive individuals, who don't exercise regularly
  • poor dietary habits
  • addictions like alcohol, smoking etc.

 

Women over the age of 65 and any postmenopausal woman with risk factors for bone loss should be tested for osteoporosis or osteopenia (Osteopenia is the decreased bone density but not to the extent of osteoporosis which leads to bone fragility and an increased chance of fracture).