Osteoporosis is a disease of bone, caused by a gradual demineralization process, which will affect its density. The bones become brittle and weak and are therefore more vulnerable to fracture or collapse.
Osteoporosis is sometimes discovered by chance during X-ray, where the bone tissue appears more translucent. There are not usually any early symptoms or warning signs. Osteoporosis is usually only discovered when a fracture has occurred with minimal trauma being involved. Because of the dangers in some types of fractures as in the neck of the Femur, (where hemorrhage can also occur and be fatal) or vertebral body collapse where the spinal cord and or peripheral nerves can be damaged, care is taken to monitor vulnerable patients. These include patients on long term steroid treatment, post- menopausal women or women who have had a total hysterectomy where Oestrogen levels have declined, and the very elderly.
Bone scans of the wrist, hips and or spine can give good indicators of bone density.
Demineralization is caused by an imbalance between the natural breaking down of bone tissue to remodel it, and the depositing of minerals such as calcium to both store in the body and rebuild new bone. It is known that hormones such as Oestrogen encourage the depositing of calcium into the bone tissue. If this stops there is an imbalance and more calcium is released from the bone than is deposited.
In some sufferers a poor diet or nutrition absorption problem hampers calcium uptake, and this can be corrected by a combination of oral calcium plus medication to encourage its absorption. It may be necessary to take a drug that can reduce the activity of the cells involved with the breaking down process. Calcium is naturally absorbed better with vitamin D, and it is quite usual to see milky drinks and products advertising enrichment with vitamin D. Taking extra vitamin D is only really essential if the sufferer is housebound and gets no sunlight as this is how nutritional vitamin D is converted in our diets.
Regular exercise strengthens bones and a good diet helps them to stay healthy. Further information can be obtained from the National Osteoporosis Society Tel; 01761 471771
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