Osteoporosis: When Even Sneezing Can Be Risky
Imagine a person sneezing and fracturing their spine as a result of that sneeze. Or someone bending to pick up something and cracking their hip bone. That’s what osteoporosis does. It makes the bones so weak and brittle that even simple acts can cause them to break. Bones in the body are continuously undergoing change. Old bones get broken down and new bones are formed. As people age, not only does new bone formation slow down, even bone density (or thickness of the bones) starts decreasing naturally. But not everyone develops osteoporosis. There are several other risk factors for developing the disease and doctors say it is a growing health concern in the country.
“Patients commonly suffer from hip, wrist or spine fractures, only after which is osteoporosis diagnosed. One fourth of the senior citizens who suffer a hip fracture due to the disease may not survive after a year of injury and there are chances of becoming permanently disabled too,” explains Dr. Beena Bansal, Associate Director,
Endocrinology and Diabetology, Medanta. “This is why it becomes even more important to keep a check on the bones like one would for the rest of the body,” she adds.
Risk Factors of Osteoporosis
- Osteoporosis is known to affect more women than men.
- Older women who have reached menopause, often are more susceptible. After menopause (around 45-55 years), oestrogen levels in women drop significantly. Oestrogen, mainly a female hormone, helps preserve bone density.
- If the parents have suffered a hip fracture due to osteoporosis, then genetically the children have weak bones and need to be monitored.
- A sedentary lifestyle, smoking and alcohol, make the bones inherently weak.
- Insufficient calcium and protein intake and low vitamin D levels might lead to osteoporosis.
- Prolonged exposure to steroid medications can weaken the bones.
- Suffering a fracture especially on the wrist, spine or hip, increases the chances of having a second fracture.
Can Osteoporosis be prevented?
Doctors say prevention and further corrosion of the bones, comes with early health screenings. So, one may have inherited weak bones but their deterioration can be slowed down if detected in time. In India, the concept of deterioration of bones and fracture with growing age is taken very casually but it can be corrected. A bone mineral density test called DEXA (Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) detects decreasing bone mass. People over the age of 50, with any of the risk factors should talk to their doctor about this test to know their chances of suffering osteoporosis-related fractures.
Dr. Bansal also suggests focusing on exercising and proper nutrition. Milk and dairy products, whole grains, soya, cereals (especially ragi), chicken, eggs and fish are the most easily available sources of calcium. Consulting a doctor or nutritionist can help chart out a proper diet plan. When combined with sufficient Vitamin D intake, which helps the body absorb calcium, bones remain strong, preventing the onset of osteoporosis. She says that physical activities can strengthen bones and considerably decrease the chances of hip fracture.
“There are lots of effective medications for fracture prevention and there is no reason why so many elderly people still suffer from it in today’s era of advanced osteoporosis management,” she adds.
Who Treats Osteoporosis?
Any bone related disease is often managed by different specialist doctors. In osteoporosis, usually after a fracture, the first point of contact is an orthopedic surgeon whose job is to fix the fracture. However, the person now will need to rebuild bone mass and since they have a very high chance of fracturing themselves again, they could need long term medications. This long term care is done by an endocrinologist who specializes in hormonal care; hormones across the body are known to be responsible for bone health.
Unfortunately, osteoporosis comes with no symptoms that the bones are deteriorating until someone fractures a bone. However, body height getting shorter or developing a curved spine are signs of osteoporosis. Treatments may include medications to stop or slow the loss of bone and rebuilding it. Medanta- The Medicity has effective and economical therapies and drug treatments for postmenopausal osteoporosis. The hospital also uses vertebroplasty and balloon kyphoplasty techniques which help to soothe the pain of the fractures.