Osteoporosis is characterized by deterioration of bone tissue and low bone density, which leaves patients prone to fractures. Osteoporosis is one of the most common conditions in the U.S., affecting approximately 8 million women and 2 million men. According to the National Institutes of Health, another 34 million people have low bone density, so they are at increased risk for developing osteoporosis.
Although the disease does not cause back pain, patients with osteoporosis often have spinal compression fractures, which occur when a vertebral body is overstressed and collapses. When bones become thin, osteoporotic patients may develop spinal compression fractures with minimal or no trauma. Osteoporosis can lead to fractures of other bones of the body too.
Sometimes, spinal compression fractures don't show up on an X-ray. An MRI using a technique called STIR can identify a new fracture.
There are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Symptoms occurring late in the disease include:
Treatment for osteoporosis combines proper nutrition, exercise and safety-proofing the home to minimize the risk of falls. See “Compression Fractures” for treatment of spine fractures associated with osteoporosis. Lifestyle changes are the foundation to living with osteoporosis.
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