The skeletal system of the body is a complex arrangement of bones that are constantly in a cycle of remodeling; old tissue breaks down, and new tissue grows to take its place.
Good nutrition, specifically sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D, is critical to a healthy bone metabolism process. Physical exercise also helps preserve healthy bones. Male and female sex hormones, namely testosterone and estrogen, play important roles in bone metabolism, and low levels of these hormones lead to bone loss, which is a large part of why elderly individuals experience more bone problems than young people. Like any other system in the body, the skeletal system is subject to a variety of disorders and disease. Bone metabolism disorders aren’t uncommon, and at-risk individuals should be aware of the warning signs of osteoporosis and get regular screenings to monitor bone health.
What is Osteoporosis?
By far, the most common bone disorder is osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, meaning porous bones, is a degenerative condition that occurs when the pace of new bone creation doesn’t keep up with the pace of bone degeneration. Under X-ray, you can see that healthy bones are made up of a dense matrix of bone cells. But bones suffering with osteoporosis show a loose matrix of sparse strands of bone tissues separated by large pockets of air. The result is brittle, weak bones that break easily. Hips, wrists, and vertebra are especially prone to breaking, sometimes with as little provocation as a sudden sneeze or cough.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis
It’s often called a silent disease because, in the early stages of osteoporosis, it has no symptoms. But, as bones continue to lose mass and density, patients begin to show some common symptoms, which include back pain, stooped posture, curved spine, height loss, and frequent bone fractures. Sometimes the first symptom is, in fact, a broken bone.
Different Types of Osteoporosis
In addition to knowing signs and symptoms, it’s also important to distinguish between the different types of osteoporosis. These include the following:
Primary osteoporosis is the loss of bone mass and density as a result of the normal process of aging. Aging brings on significant hormonal changes in the body, one of which is the decline of sex hormones. The decline of estrogen in women and testosterone in men, both of which play a role in regulating bone renewal, causes the rate of bone breakdown to increase. When bone loss is greater than the growth of new bone, bones get weaker and osteoporosis sets in. The effect is greater in women than in men; women lose critical bone minerals very quickly in the first three to eight years following menopause when estrogen levels plummet. Primary osteoporosis is seen only in seniors.
There’s no cure for primary osteoporosis, but there are several things that can be done to slow the progression and avoid complications, including:
- Regularly participating in weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, dancing, and lifting weights, strengthens bones and muscles and improves balance
- Refraining from drinking alcohol
- Stopping smoking
- Taking prescribed medications
- Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that is rich in nutrients including calcium and vitamin D
- Keeping living areas tidy and free from tripping hazards
- Avoiding high-risk activities that might result in broken bones
Secondary osteoporosis occurs as a consequence of other medical conditions or medical treatment therapies that indirectly have an effect on bone metabolism and can affect children and adults. A number of medical conditions contribute to bone loss. They are:
- Diseases that directly affect the bones, such as bone cancer or multiple myeloma tumors
- Gastrointestinal conditions, such as IBS, celiac disease, eating disorders, weight loss surgeries, etc.
- Cancer, specifically breast cancer and prostate cancer
- Rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, and liver disease
- Organ transplants
In addition, many medications have side effects that weaken bones. Examples include corticosteroids, thyroid hormones, some anti-seizure medications, antacids that contain aluminum, lithium, and blood thinners including Heparin and Coumadin.
Some studies estimate that between 20% to 30% of postmenopausal women and greater than 50% of men have osteoporosis as the result of a secondary cause. In many cases, secondary osteoporosis is reversible with appropriate intervention.
Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) is a rare form of osteoporosis that is present at birth and is caused by a genetic defect that affects the production of collagen, resulting in brittle bones that break easily. Children with OI never develop normal bone mass. A family history of OI puts babies at risk of being born with the disease, for which there is no cure. Keeping muscles strong and avoiding risky behavior are the only ways to mitigate the complications of this disorder.
Idiopathic Juvenile Osteoporosis
Idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis (IJO) is low bone mass in children with no known cause. This rare form of osteoporosis generally occurs in previously healthy children prior to the onset of puberty. Most children with IJO experience complete recovery of bone health. Because there’s no known cause for IJO, it’s impossible to determine who may be at risk for developing this disorder.
In-Home Care to the Rescue
Osteoporosis of any kind is serious and can pose challenges for everyday life. In-home care is an important part of any treatment program designed to slow the progression of the disease and prevent the worst complications. For anyone struggling with the late stages of osteoporosis, in-home health care can help maintain quality of life; remaining in the comfort of home has palliative value beyond any other form of medicine.
Home caregivers provide a variety of services designed to serve the needs of osteoporosis patients of all ages. They are: fall and fracture prevention, nutrition assistance, lifestyle support, and specialized care following breaks and medical procedures.
For more information about osteoporosis care from 24 Hour Home Care, call a member of our team today at 800-522-1516.