Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle. Bone is a living tissue made up of cells. If the old cells die off faster than they can be replaced, the bone eventually loses density and becomes brittle. The bone eventually becomes so fragile that even a mild stress, like coughing or bending over, can cause a fracture. Most fractures associated with osteoporosis occur in the hip, spine or wrist.
There are several diagnostic tests used to identify osteoporosis. All of them measure bone mineral density (BMD) or the amount of minerals in bones. As people age, their bones lose the calcium and other minerals they need to stay strong.
Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry or DEXA is the most common method of measuring BMD, and it is also the most accurate. In it, two different X-ray beams are used to estimate the bone density in the spine and hip. The doctor compares the amounts of each X-ray beam blocked by bones and soft tissue to each other. Dense, strong bones allow less of the beam to pass through them. DEXA is fast, accurate and uses little radiation.
Peripheral dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (P-DEXA) is a variant of DEXA used to measure BMD in the arms or legs. The machines are portable and can be used in a doctor’s office. Dual photon absorptiometry or DPA uses a radioactive substance to measure bone density. It can measure BMD in the hip and spine, but is slower than the other methods.
There is a range of treatments for osteoporosis including medications, exercise and lifestyle changes, and dietary supplements.
Strontium, which is chemically similar to calcium, is a supplement used to treat osteoporosis. It is most commonly found in seafood, but it can also be located in root vegetables, poultry, whole milk, and wheat bran. Strontium is believed to promote the growth of new bone while slowing down the breakdown of old bone.
A good exercise program can strengthen bones and muscles. It also improves balance and coordination and thus reduces the likelihood of falling. Useful exercises include weight-bearing exercises like walking and muscle-strengthening exercises like weight lifting.
Fosomax, Boniva, Binosto, and Actonel are medicines that slow bone loss by inhibiting the cells that break down bone. They have to be used carefully, for they can damage the esophagus. Boniva is taken once a month while the other three are taken weekly. Medications used for menopausal hormone replacement therapy can also be used to treat osteoporosis. Such drugs retard bone loss and prevent fractures.
Forteo is a synthetic form of a parathyroid hormone. It has the distinction of being the first drug that stimulates new bone growth and can increase bone density. Patients take it as an injection that can be effective for as long as 24 months. Side effects associated with Forteo include dizziness, leg cramps, and nausea.
If you are worried about bone density loss or osteoporosis, our medical team at Associates in Women’s Health in Cincinnati can help. We offer DEXA testing to help diagnose bone loss. We can then provide customized treatment options for our patients depending on their specific needs. Contact Associates in Women’s Health today to schedule a consultation.