As a baby learns to walk, it bumps and falls innumerable times before it takes a few clumsy steps. In contrast, older people may find themselves in excruciating pain and unable to move after a minor trauma or a tumble. Is it always a part of regular ageing, or could it signify an abnormal issue?

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a chronic disease of the bone, where thinning and increasing porosity can result in easy fractures. In fact, bones can become so brittle that sometimes small bumps or mild stresses like coughing can cause bones to break.

Multiple factors contribute to the development of osteoporosis, and thus no single culprit can be pointed to in each case. Some of the risk factors include:

  • Increasing Age (>50years)
  • Female sex
  • Post-menopausal state
  • Late onset of menarche
  • Early menopause
  • Family history
  • Low physical activity
  • Calcium deficiency
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Thin stature
  • Eating disorders
  • Heavy alcohol and tobacco use
  • Certain medicines like anti-convulsants, steroids, thyroid supplements

In addition, certain conditions like Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hyperthyroidism and Pregnancy can also alter the chemical balance of the body and increase the chances of osteoporotic changes.

What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is often termed a silent disease, as you can’t feel the process of weakening bones. Often the disease becomes evident only following a fracture. While there are no specific symptoms, many report changes like:

  • Back pain, due to fractured vertebrae
  • Loss of height
  • Stooped posture
  • Unexpected bone fractures – such as in wrist, or hip

How do you know if you have osteoporosis?

A formal risk assessment tool like FRAX or Q-fracture can help assess your risk of osteoporosis, for ages ranging from 40 to 90.

A particular scan called DEXA scan is also useful in measuring Bone Mineral Density, another predictor of one’s risk. It is a painless procedure that would require just five minutes of your time.

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