What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that is most commonly associated with the elderly, and is more prevalent in women than in men. Symptoms include the gradual deterioration of the skeletal structure, which is why older people are more likely to fracture bones.
It is often difficult to prevent osteoporosis, as the decrease in bone is not associated with any discomfort or external symptoms. The presence of the disease often remains undetected until the patient is examined after a fracture has occurred. Older people are most likely to injure or fracture their hips during falls, particularly around the house. These hip fractures can often cause irreversible damage, paralysis and even death from related complications.
Regular x-rays are often not efficient in imaging the signs of osteoporosis at an advanced stage of skeletal decay. A relatively new form of imaging technology, known as Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA), is much more effective as an early diagnostics tool, as it is able to detect early warning signs prior to fracture.
One of the most difficult aspects of the disease is that one fracture often leads to further weakening of the bone and subsequently more severe fractures.
Possible Contributing Factors
Genetics contribute greatly to whether an individual will develop osteoporosis and at what age the deterioration in skeletal structure first sets in. In addition to genetics, smoking, diet and exercise have a great influence on the severity of the disease. Weight lifting in particular has shown to be an effective way of slowing down bone deterioration. Sufficient vitamin D from sunlight and calcium from dairy products are an effective way of combating the development of osteoporosis. The loss of skeletal strength in women is linked to the post-menopausal decrease in oestrogen. In addition to prevention, some effective treatment options have recently become available for patients suffering from osteoporosis. These medications are able to prevent further deterioration of bone diseases and even restore skeletal mass in some cases.
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