Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle. Bone is living tissue that is constantly being broken down and replaced. When you are young, your body typically makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone. This leads to dense bone mass (strong bones). When the creation of new bone is unable to keep up with the removal of old bone, they become weak and brittle. If osteoporosis is severe enough, a crack or break (fracture) within the bone can occur from something as minor as a fall or even from a normal action, like coughing. Symptoms of osteoporosis may include back pain, decrease in height, a hunched posture, and increased risk of bone fractures.
Most people reach their peak bone mass by their early 20s. Individuals with a high peak bone mass when they are young have a lower chance of developing osteoporosis as they age. Gender, age, and race are all risk factors for developing osteoporosis. Women, individuals who are white or of Asian descent, and the elderly have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. Low calcium intake, eating disorders, and gastrointestinal surgery can also cause a greater risk for osteoporosis. Certain medications, especially steroids, as well as tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption and a sedentary lifestyle all increase the risk for osteoporosis.
Specific types of X-ray images, called DXA scans, may be used to determine your bone density and diagnose osteoporosis. There are many forms of treatment, depending on the severity. It is important to talk to your doctor, if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, to review the current treatment options.