Warning Signs of Osteoporosis

What to Watch for to Detect the Onset of Osteoporosis

doctor showing vertebrae display to female patient
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Osteoporosis is a bone disease that results in an increased likelihood of sustaining a fracture. Osteoporosis can affect any bone in the body. The diagnosis of osteoporosis is made by measuring bone density. If you are are diagnosed with osteoporosis, you will be treated to modify your condition in an effort to prevent fractures.

Osteoporosis can be easily diagnosed, and treatment initiated, but only if the proper tests are performed.

Knowing when to have a bone density test can help diagnose the condition and you can begin appropriate treatment.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is best treated before any signs or symptoms develop. Therefore, it is important to understand your risk factors for developing osteoporosis, and thus your likelihood of developing the condition. Some warning signs that you need to discuss bone health with your doctor include:

  • Low-Energy Fractures: Most everyone has had a broken bone, but usually there is a major force that causes the injury. Fractures after falls from a height, car crashes, or sports injuries make sense. But when you break a bone with minimal force, osteoporosis should be considered.
  • Unexplained Bone or Joint Pain: There are many causes of bone and joint pain, but osteoporosis may contribute to these symptoms. When the bones lack sufficient strength to hold the weight of your body, injury can occur. Unexplained bone or joint pain may raise the consideration of a bone health problem.
  • Height Loss or Stooping: Compression fractures of the spine may go undetected or be attributed to a back strain type of injury. When multiple vertebrae are injured, people may lose height or develop a curvature to their spine. The typical appearance of an individual with compression fractures is a short stature with a humped back.

    Discuss with your doctor if you need a bone density test. Osteoporosis can only be diagnosed by knowing your bone density, and treatment is best accomplished once the extent of the osteoporosis is understood.

    Things You Can't Control that Raise Your Osteoporosis Risk

    These are risk factors that you can't control. They are things you are born with or have developed that place you in a category of individuals that have a high chance of developing osteoporosis. The more of these risk factors you have, the more vigilant you should be about monitoring your bone health.

    Things You Can Control that Raise Your Osteoporosis Risk

    • Smoking
    • Excessive alcohol consumption
    • Poor diet
    • Inadequate calcium or Vitamin D intake
    • Sedentary lifestyle

      These are choices you have made in your life. Making some lifestyle choices can affect your bone health and make it more likely that you will develop problems with bone health. The more risk factors you have, the more likely it is that you will develop osteoporosis.

      Other Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

      There are conditions and medications that can also affect your chance of developing osteoporosis. However, these may not be so easily altered. For example, stopping a medication that treats seizures may not be possible, but these should be considered when assessing your risk of developing osteoporosis.

      • Some seizure medications (such as Dilantin)
      • Oral steroids (such as Prednisone)
      • Lithium
      • Immunosuppression treatments
      • Some types of chemotherapy

      Sources:

      "Are You at Risk?" National Osteoporosis Foundation. Accessed 3/27/16

      JM Lane and M Nydick "Osteoporosis: current modes of prevention and treatment" J. Am. Acad. Ortho. Surg., Jan 1999; 7: 19 - 31.

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