WHAT IS OSTEOPOROSIS?
Osteoporosis (“porous bone”) is a disease that weakens bones, putting them at greater risk for sudden and unexpected fractures. Osteoporosis results in an increased loss of bone mass and strength.
The disease often develops without any symptoms or pain, and it is usually not discovered until weakened bones cause painful fractures.
Most of these fractures occur at the hip, wrist and spine.
- Gender: Women over the age of 50 or postmenopausal women have the greatest risk of developing osteoporosis, because menopause slows the production of estrogen, a hormone that protects against excessive bone loss.
- Age: risk for osteoporosis fractures increases as you age.
- Race: Caucasian and Asian women are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
- Bone structure and body weigh: thin people have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis because they have less bone to lose than people with more body weight and larger frames.
- Family history: If your parents or grandparents have had any signs of osteoporosis, such as a fractured hip after a minor fall, you may have a greater risk of developing the disease.
- Nutrition: You are more likely to develop osteoporosis if your body doesn’t have enough calcium and vitamin D.
- Lifestyle: People who lead sedentary lifestyles have a higher risk of osteoporosis.
- Medications: some medications cause side effects that may damage bone and lead to osteoporosis for eg. steroids, treatments for breast cancer, and medications for treating seizures.
- Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of fractures.
- Alcohol use: Having 1-2 or more drinks a day increases the risk of osteoporosis.
- Medical conditions: People who have had the following should consider earlier screening for osteoporosis(these are only a few amongst many) :
- Overactive thyroid, parathyroid, or adrenal glands
- History of bariatric (weight loss) surgery
- Hormone treatment for breast or prostate cancer
- Eating disorders (bulimia or anorexia)
- Organ transplant
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Missed periods
- Blood diseases such as multiple myeloma
Bone fractures, especially in the spine, wrist or hip are the most serious complications of osteoporosis. Hip fractures are often caused by a fall and can result in disability. Sometimes spinal fractures can occur even if you haven’t fallen.
SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES
There is no warning signs or symptoms of early osteoporosis. Some people don’t even know they have osteoporosis until they get fractured. If symptoms do appear, some of the earlier ones may include:
- receding gums
- weakened grip strength
- weak and brittle nails
If a break occurs in the spinal vertebrae, it can lead to changes in posture, stooping, and curvature of the spine.
The exact cause of osteoporosis is unknown however there are many factors that can lead a person towards it. Many hormonal conditions such as hyperthyroidism, menopause as well as long term use of corticosteroids is associated with increased rate of occurrence of osteoporosis.
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
Bone mineral density (BMD) tests, or bone measurements or dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans : X-rays that use very small amounts of radiation to determine the bone density of the spine, hip, or wrist.
All women over the age of 65 should have a bone density test (done earlier for women who have risk factors for osteoporosis). Men over age 70, or younger men with risk factors, should also consider getting a bone density test done.
Conventional treatment has no cure for osteoporosis, it can only offer some management which includes use of hormones, steroids and bisphosphonates etc that has its own side effects.
- To keep your bones healthy, you need to include certain nutrients in your daily diet. The most important ones are calcium and vitamin D. Your body needs calcium to maintain strong bones, and it needs vitamin D to absorb calcium.
- doing weight-bearing exercises
- stop smoking
- for women, weighing the pros and cons of hormone therapy
Apart from the use of constitutional medicine, there are many other homeopathic medicines that can be used for treatment of osteoporosis without any side effects.
Some of the commonly used medicines are: rhus tox, calcarea carb, calc phos, silicea, symphytum, mag phos, ledum etc.
DO’S AND DON’TS
- Getting daily recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D.
- doing regular weight bearing exercise, such as walking, as this promotes healthy bones and strengthens their support from muscles.
- exercises to promote flexibility and balance, such as yoga.
- avoid smoking, as this can reduce the growth of new bone and decrease estrogen levels in women.
- Limiting alcohol intake to encourage healthy bones and prevent falls.