Osteoporosis: Causes, symptoms and treatment
Osteoporosis is the most frequent bone disease in man. More than 5 million people are affected in Germany alone. A large percentage (approximately 80 percent) of osteoporosis patients are women. Osteoporosis is a metabolic bone disease that reduces bone mass. This changes the structure and density of the bones – leading to an increased risk for fractures. The bones of the femoral neck, forearms, and vertebral bodies are particularly vulnerable. The reasons for osteoporosis are diverse. In addition to poor bone development in adolescence, menopause, or age can be responsible. Side effects from medications, inflammation, cancer diseases, lack of exercise, undernourishment, and anorexia are other potential causes of osteoporosis.
How to recognise osteoporosis
Suddenly occurring and poorly healing fractures following harmless incidents such as falling, or persistent pain, for example in the back or in the knees, are typical signs of osteoporosis. However, they usually manifest only in the later stages of the disease – which is what make osteoporosis so insidious. Osteoporosis develops gradually over many years, often unnoticed. Therefore, it is important to be vigilant when persistent pain appears and risk factors for osteoporosis are present and to consult the doctor. Risk factors include:
• Familial predisposition
• Advanced age
• Lack of exercise
• Low body weight
• Early menopause in women
• Tobacco use
• Alcohol abuse
• Calcium and vitamin D deficiency
• Unhealthy diet
How osteoporosis is treated
The goal of osteoporosis treatment is to slow down bone loss and thereby prevent (additional) fractures. On one hand, this is achieved by basic measures – a bone strengthening diet and regular exercise. On the other hand, treatment with medication is possible. Preventing falls plays another important role in osteoporosis treatment. This starts at home, within the patient's own four walls: Can cables or sliding rugs turn out to be tripping hazards? Do the brakes on the walker work? Is it time to check the spectacles?
Depending on how far the disease has progressed, different modules are assembled for each individual patient's osteoporosis therapy. An important factor is the patient's willingness to actively battle the disease.