What is osteoporosis? - Tucson Local Media: News

What is osteoporosis?

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Marcus Dill-Macky M.D., Medical Director of Women’s Services at Radiology Ltd.

Posted: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 4:00 am

Radiology Ltd. is joining with the National Osteoporosis Foundation to celebrate National Osteoporosis Month beginning May 1.  

Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” It occurs when you lose too much bone, make too little bone, or both. As a result, your bones become weak and may break from a minor fall or, in serious cases, even from simple actions, like sneezing or bumping into furniture.

If you look at healthy bone under a microscope, you will see that parts of it look like a honeycomb. If you have osteoporosis, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are much bigger than they are in healthy bone. This means that your bones have lost density or mass and that the structure of your bone tissue has become abnormal. As your bones become less dense, they also become weaker and more likely to break.

“Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease because you don’t feel your bones getting weaker,” said Marcus Dill-Macky M.D., Medical Director of Women’s Services at Radiology Ltd. “Breaking a bone is often the first sign that you have osteoporosis or you may notice that you are getting shorter or that your upper back is curving forward,” continued Dill-Macky.

Once osteoporosis is discovered, bone strength can be restored using medications and lifestyle modifications that minimize the future risk of an osteoporotic fracture and its sequelae.

Osteoporosis is Common

About 52 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for fractures. Studies suggest that approximately one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.  

Osteoporosis is Serious

Breaking a bone is a serious complication of osteoporosis, especially when you’re older. Broken bones due to osteoporosis are most likely to occur in the hip, spine and wrist, though other bones can also break. Broken bones can cause severe pain that may not go away. Bone fractures may result in a hospital admission, with surgery and prolonged rehabilitation.  Twenty percent of seniors who break a hip die within one year from problems related to the broken bone itself or the surgery to repair it. Many of those who survive lose their independence and need long-term nursing home care.

Osteoporosis is Costly

Osteoporosis is responsible for two million broken bones and $19 billion in related costs every year. By 2025, experts predict that osteoporosis will be responsible for approximately three million fractures and $25.3 billion in costs each year.

Are You at Risk?

There are a variety of factors - both controllable and uncontrollable - that put you at risk for developing osteoporosis. It is important to talk with your healthcare provider about your risk factors for osteoporosis and together you can develop a plan to protect your bones.

A woman’s risk of breaking a hip due to osteoporosis is equal to her risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer combined.  A man age 50 or older is more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than he is to develop prostate cancer.

Uncontrollable Risk Factors

 • Age> 50.

 • Female gender.

 • Menopause.

 • Family history of osteoporosis.

 • Low body weight/being small and thin body frame.

 • Broken bones or height loss.

Controllable Risk Factors

 •Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D.

 • Not eating enough fruits and vegetables.

 • Getting too much protein, sodium, and caffeine.

 • Having an inactive lifestyle.

 • Smoking.

 • Drinking too much alcohol.

 • Losing weight.

There are also medications and diseases that can cause bone loss and increase your risk of osteoporosis.

Making a Diagnosis

All women should be screened for osteoporosis with an initial DEXA scan at age 65.  

DEXA may be performed earlier in women at increased risk.

Men should consider having a DEXA scan at age 70.

DEXA is a very low dose X-ray test that takes 10minutes to perform and is painless.

“An osteoporotic fracture can have profoundly negative effects on your life or that of a loved one. I encourage you to take control of your health and inquire about screening for osteoporosis with DEXA,” said Dr. Dill-Macky.

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