Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition that affects millions of Americans. An estimated 10 million people have the disease while another 34 million are considered at risk by showing the first signs of Osteoporosis. One of the key symptoms of Osteoporosis is the fact that bones break more easily and it is believed that half of women over the age of 50 will experience a break as a result of the disease. Men will experience broken bones at a rate of about 1 in 4. Clearly the condition is one the needs addressing to improve the quality of life for elderly Americans.

Osteoporosis photo
Photo by German Tenorio

But the best place to start is with the simple question: what is Osteoporosis? To put it simply, when the body either loses bone at too great a rate or isn’t creating enough (or a combination of both), this is the condition of Osteoporosis. Now that we know what Osteoporosis is, let’s move on to learning about the various signs and symptoms of Osteoporosis.
Often referred to as the “silent disease”, notoriety has grown for the fact that there are very few outward symptoms for Osteoporosis. This is the strongest argument for increased research to improve our knowledge of the condition and the signs that come with it. Medical knowledge moves in leaps and bounds so hopefully we can continue to progress in the study of this disease.
The most obvious when it comes to the signs and symptoms of Osteoporosis is a fracture. A fracture (especially if you are over the age of 50), particularly one that seems to have occurred too easily, can be a key indicator that your bone density may be suffering as a result of Osteoporosis. If the fracture occurs in the spine, wrist or hip, this is an even greater sign of Osteoporosis as these areas are among the first affected.
However, while fractures are one of the biggest symptoms of Osteoporosis, once they occur, some of the damage has already occurred. There are some signs that you can check for to see if you may have Osteoporosis or Osteopenia, a condition of slightly thinning bone density which can be precursor to Osteoporosis.
One of the first signs and of Osteoporosis to check for is the start or worsening of back pain. As bone density lessens, the strain on the back and spine can increase as a result. The same body weight and workload is distributed among a lessening bone density which leads to the pain. This can be referred to as spinal compression. While this is one of the most common symptoms for Osteoporosis, it is also extremely common among Americans so it doesn’t serve as a helpful indicator oftentimes.
More definitive but less common, another key symptom of Osteoporosis can be a loss of height or an increasingly stooped posture. These two symptoms often go hand in hand and are also results of dwindling bone density. Again, as the same workload and weight rests on the bones in the spine and shoulder, it can compress the spine causing the decrease in height. Also, this same pressure being applied to the shoulders can cause the stooping posture. These symptoms may present at the same time or separately.
Osteoporosis may also be discovered in the course of dental work. A routine dental x-ray may show the loss of bone density in the jaw which can be an indicator of the disease. However, it may also be a sign of gum disease.
The “silent disease” is an apt nickname for Osteoporosis because the known signs and symptoms are so limited. It is obvious that increased research in the field of bone density is required to aid in early detection of Osteoporosis symptoms and treatment. If we can continue research, we should be able to improve our knowledge of the condition as well as increase our ability to treat the disease.
If you are concerned that you may have Osteoporosis symptoms, please contact your physician.

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