Osteoporosis: Symptoms and Treatment Options

Osteoporosis–or “porous bone,” as it is often referred to by medical professionals–is a bone disorder characterized by loss of bone mass and bone deterioration. This can result in an increased risk of spine, wrist, and hip fractures. The condition can affect both men and women, but it is more common in women. Over 50 million individuals in the United States alone suffer from osteoporosis or have a high likelihood of developing the disease. Fortunately, it can be prevented in certain cases, and in almost all cases it can be treated to some degree.

Risk factors

Leading a sedentary lifestyle, failing to consume enough calcium, smoking, and drinking alcohol are all factors that can increase one’s risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. However, in some cases, the presence of the disorder is simply hereditary, meaning it is a genetic condition that runs in the person’s family.

The bones of humans are primarily comprised of calcium phosphate and collagen, the latter of which is a combination that not only gives strength to the bones, but also makes them flexible.

During the natural course of an individual’s life, old bone is broken down and removed and new bone tissue is added. As a person ages, however, older bone tissue is destroyed faster than osteophytes are formed. Osteophytes are the cells responsible for creating new bone tissue. When this imbalance begins to occur, it can lead to osteoporosis.

Because estrogen plays a primary role in bone health in women, women are more susceptible to osteoporosis than men are as they age. In addition to gender, other factors have an impact on a person’s risk for osteoporosis. For instance, those with petite frames and small bones are more susceptible to the disorder. Additionally, Caucasian women have a higher likelihood of developing the condition than women belonging to other ethnic backgrounds, although the reason for this is not yet known.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of osteoporosis include muscle pain and cramps, gum problems, issues with grip, loss of height, shoulder or neck pain, poor posture, and brittle nails and hair. A weak grip and poor posture are usually the first symptoms a person experiences.

Staying active is often challenging, as weakness and pain can impede the person’s ability to participate in specific activities. The disorder also places most individuals at an increased risk for all types of fractures, including stress fractures. These most often occur in the hip and wrist, but vertebral fractures are also possible.

Treatments

Fortunately, treatments are available for osteoporosis. They include lifestyle changes, medications, and natural supplements.

For example, health care practitioners can advise patients to stop smoking and then provide calcium and vitamin D supplements to impede the progress of the disorder. In addition, various medications may be prescribed, depending on the person’s individual circumstances. The following are the most commonly prescribed medications and supplements for osteoporosis:

Prolia

Prolia is a drug developed for postmenopausal women suffering from osteoporosis. It is given in the form of an injection on a biannual basis and its primary function is to strengthen bones and reduce the risk for fracture. It is also the drug of choice for men or women who have had fractures in the past or who are at high risk category for multiple fractures.

In addition, Prolia is often prescribed for those for whom other osteoporosis medications proved ineffective or for individuals who cannot use other osteoporosis drugs for various reasons.

Reclast

Reclast is another medication specifically designed for postmenopausal women who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. It is also the drug of choice for those who have had previous vertebral fractures or who had poor readings following a bone mineral density test. Reclast can be taken orally or via a monthly injection.

Forteo

Forteo is a drug prescribed for both men and women suffering from osteoporosis. It is also used specifically for those who developed osteoporosis through the use of medications such as prednisone and other glucocorticoid steroids. It is the medication most frequently prescribed for those who have already experienced osteoporosis-related fractures, or who cannot use other drugs developed for this disorder.

Zometa

Zometa is a used to treat a broad range of bone conditions and disorders, including osteoporosis. It primarily works by strengthening bones and can be taken orally or in the form of an injection.

Algaecal

For individuals who prefer natural remedies or whose symptoms are not extremely severe, formulas such as AlgaeCal plant calcium may also be an option. Many plant calcium supplements are made from a substance called limestone, as opposed to whole food, and therefore are not as readily absorbed. However, AlgaeCal is made from whole food and “pre-digests” the minerals and calcium in sea water. For this reason, more of the substance reaches the patient’s bones.

Evenity

Evenity is an FDA-approved drug for the treatment of osteoporosis in high-risk postmenopausal women that encourages bone formation. A licensed professional must administer this drug via injections on a monthly basis, and no one should receive more than 12 doses.

Tymlos

This medication is designed to reduce the risk of fractures in postmenopausal women. This medication is a daily, self-administered injection. Anyone taking this medication should first receive proper instruction in its use from a licensed medical professional.

Final Considerations

As previously mentioned, osteoporosis can often be prevented by making positive lifestyle changes. Additionally, effective treatments are available for those who have been diagnosed with the disorder. For this reason, anyone with a family history of osteoporosis and individuals who are experiencing the symptoms outlined above should schedule an appointment with a licensed medical professional to discuss treatment options and for further evaluation.

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