Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a systemic bone, and autoimmune disease. It is characterised by a reduction in bone mass and an alteration of the microarchitecture of bone tissue.

This disease generates a progressive bone rarefaction and bone demineralisation, also called decalcification.

This is due to the reduction in the amount of calcium and other minerals in the bones of the skeleton.

In short, the lack of calcium causes the bones to weaken and become more prone to fractures. These fractures are not necessarily caused by trauma, but may also be caused by  other factors, such as a stress conditions.

Osteoporosis can involve any of the bones of the skeleton, in men and women of any age. When it involves the entire skeleton, it is termed widespread osteoporosis.

At other times, however, the disease is located in more specific areas of the body. In this case, the most common forms are osteoporosis of the femur, lumbar osteoporosis, that of the hands, that of the hip and also osteoporosis of the vertebral column.

A diagnosis of osteoporosis can be made by a specialist doctor, usually an orthopaedic surgeon.

The reference test is bone densitometry, also called CBM, or “computerised bone mineralometry”.

Other tests can also be useful.

Blood tests, for example, are intended to determine values ​​such as calcaemia, which indicates the calcium content in the blood.

Symptoms

Symptoms of osteoporosis do not occur immediately. Initially, pains are felt when the disease has already begun to weaken the bones.

Usually these pains are caused by the fracture or collapse of the vertebrae, but may also depend on the fracture of the wrist, the femur or other bones

Symptoms can occur in different situations depending on the form of osteoporosis.

In the case of lumbar osteoporosis and osteoporosis of the hip, the first symptoms may appear after standing for a long time and recede when you lie down, especially while sleeping at night.

Moreover, in osteoporosis of the hip, the femur and the vertebral column, the symptoms can sometimes be perceived only after a hip, femur or vertebra fractures.

With osteoporosis of the hands, the symptoms should not be confused with those of osteoarthritis. Arthrosis, in fact, is a disease that does not only affect the , but the joints as well.

Causes

There are many, and varied causes of osteoporosis.

Risk factors can be partially reduced, but some of these, such as age, gender, ethnicity or family history, are not controllable.

Women, for example, suffer much more than men. This difference is especially noticeable at the onset of the menopause. In this period, oestrogen production is reduced, contributing to a reduction of bone mass.

Among the risk factors which can be controlled, if not eliminated, is the abuse of alcohol, coffee, salt and fibre supplements.

Leading a sedentary lifestyle and a diet deficient in calcium and vitamin D can also prevent optimal growth of the skeleton and increase the chances of being affected by osteoporosis. In fact, calcium and vitamin D deficiencies leads to bone decalcification.

Finally, another risk factor to consider is presented by having suffered fragility fractures in the past.

Physical therapy involves the execution of physiotherapy exercises for the treatment and rehabilitation of the hand, hip, knee, foot and limbs in general.

How to treat osteoporosis

As already mentioned, diagnosis of osteoporosis can be performed by a specialist doctor, using an examination called bone densitometry (CBM). Nowadays, a CBM is performed using an X-ray absorption technique also called DEXA.

CBM can identify or confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis, determine the risk of future fracture and monitor the effects of treatment. However, monitoring is only possible if it is carried out at regular intervals.

But what are the possible treatments for osteoporosis?

Although it is not possible to heal definitively, following a healthy and balanced diet is the first treatment for osteoporosis. The diet should provide a significant supply of calcium and vitamin D and be rich in fruits and vegetables. It must also be accompanied by a healthy lifestyle.

Quitting smoking and minimising alcohol intake is one of the most important conditions in the treatment of osteoporosis, whilst physical activity is particularly important in prevention, especially when it is in the open air.

If a doctor prescribes it, it is also possible to carry out therapy based on bisphosphonate drugs, which are able to reduce bone resorption. Alternatively, drugs that stimulate the formation of bone tissue can be taken.

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