Osteoporosis Symptoms
Signs of Bone Density Loss In Women

Health Topics

Shrinking, Losing Height as a result of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis Symptoms

Contents

What Are The Signs Of Osteoporosis?
Fragility Fractures
Losing Height
Back or Neck Pain


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Osteoporosis in Women

What Are The Signs Of Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition which silently threatens women (and men). Often the first sign of the condition is a fragility fracture, which may cause a dull strain-like pain. Even then studies suggest that many women who sustain a fragility fracture are not put through the correct osteoporosis diagnosis process, nor are they treated for probable osteoporosis. This can eventually lead to more serious injuries like hip fractures as the bones weaken further. Thousands of people die prematurely every year from hip fractures and 10 to 20 percent of patients require long-term nursing care as a result (see osteoporosis statistics). A hip fracture can cause chronic pain and severely restrict mobility. Thanks to our highly stressed lifestyle and dependence on processed sugary foods, some scientists consider osteoporosis a ticking health time bomb. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reported that 12 million people over the age of 50 have osteoporosis in 2010. This figure is expected to increase to 14 million by 2020. If this happens the number of hip fractures will double or triple by 2040. Socially, this puts a huge strain on the healthcare system. The annual costs of fractures in America are expected to reach $25 billion by 2025.

Silent Symptoms of Osteoporosis

As osteoporosis is known as the 'silent epidemic', it is worth doing everything you can to head it off, particularly if you fall into an obvious risk category (see osteoporosis risk factors). It is estimated for example that 54 percent of postmenopausal white women are osteopenic (have low bone density) and 30 percent are osteoporotic (have osteoporosis). By the time they reach the age of 80 nearly 70 percent are osteoporotic. The message is clear: women over 50 who are postmenopausal should take preventative measures by for example, having a bone density scan every 2 years. There are treatments now which can halt the deterioration of bone density, once it has been diagnosed early enough.

If There Are Symptoms, What Are They?

In the early stages of bone loss (referred to as osteopenia), most people experience no pain or symptoms. However once bones have weakened, signs and symptoms can include:

Fragility Fractures

Most often the first sign people have of their condition is a fracture. 80 percent of fractures are of the forearm, 77 percent of the humerus, 70 percent of the hip and 58 percent of the spine. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, a fragility fracture is an injury which results from a fall from a standing height or less. So for example: fracturing the spine by stepping off a curb or a stairs. Other fragility fractures are those that occur from sudden minor movements like sneezing or coughing. Fragility fractures occur where the bones have thinned and become brittle through the onset or development of osteoporosis. To help prevent fragility fractures, before coughing or sneezing place your hand on the front of your thigh to support your back from jerking forward. When getting out of bed, roll out on your side, again this will protect the back (30 percent of fractures occur in bed!). See also Osteoporosis prevention for more information. As many fragility fractures are 'silent' (the person is unaware they have a fracture), some doctors incorporate a vertebral fracture assessment test into a DXA scan (the typical scan used for testing bone density). However, not all fractures are silent: some cause pain particularly if the bone protrudes into the spinal canal or presses on a nerve.

Interesting: Alternative Treatment for Osteoporosis
Alternative techniques for reducing the symptoms of osteoporosis.

Losing Height

Many people consider losing height or 'shrinking' a natural part of the aging process. What they do not realize is that one major cause is related to fractures in the spinal column called vertebral compression fractures. A series of small fractures can compress the spine, leading to poor posture and eventually stooping. This is colloquially known as dowager's hump or widow's hump. It is estimated that nearly 70 percent of women over the age of 65 have one of these types of fractures. Even more worrying is that 20 percent of people with vertebral compression fractures receive another injury within a year and patients have a 9 times higher risk of premature death than healthy people. Those people who lose a little height as a natural part of aging (rather than osteoporosis) do not usually suffer any health problems as a result of this. However severe kyphosis (being really hunched over) can lead to problems breathing and cause neck and back pain. With an early diagnosis, and suitable osteoporosis treatment, these sorts of problems are largely preventable.

Back or Neck Pain

A dull pain in the back or neck can be caused by a fracture in the spine. It may feel similar to a muscle sprain, which is why it is often ignored. Consult your doctor if you are concerned and they can arrange an x-ray or scan. See also back problems for other possible causes.

  Related Articles on Osteoporosis Symptoms

For advice on related matters, see the following:

Menopause guidelines: All about menopause.
Losing height with age: What is normal height loss?
Symptoms of arthritis: Spot the signs

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