Osteoporosis is a disease we often associate with the elderly; however it is quite common and affects approximately 50% of women. It is easy to diagnose, and early detection is crucial as early intervention is the key.
Osteoporosis is a condition affecting our bones which makes them weak and fragile. Our bones are made up of calcium and other minerals which makes them strong but when bones lose these minerals faster than the body can replace them, it makes our bones less dense and more prone to breaking.
A person does not usually have any symptoms until a fracture occurs and this is often because of a minor bump or fall.
There are numerous risk factors for developing osteoporosis and some are reversible such as low calcium and vitamin D, extremes of weight including being very underweight or obese and lifestyle factors such as smoking and excessive alcohol use.
Women are at particular risk as they go through menopause, as the decrease in oestrogen levels leads to increased mineral loss from bones.
Osteoporosis can be diagnosed in two ways, either when a person presents with a fracture caused by minimal trauma or if your GP feels you are at risk you can be referred for a bone density scan, which measures how dense your bones are.
The bone density scan will divide people into three different categories – normal, osteopenic (which is reduced bone density but not osteoporosis) and osteoporosis.
Early diagnosis is important to prevent fractures. Osteoporosis can be prevented by ensuring your diet is rich in calcium and vitamin D or if diet is inadequate by taking supplements. Weight bearing exercise can also improve bone density.
People who have osteoporosis can also see their doctor who will discuss commencing medication which can strengthen bones and prevent fractures occurring.
This article was written by Dr Alison Philpott published in the Western Suburbs Weekly