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What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition marked by bones that are weak and brittle. This condition often results in bone fractures.

How Does it Happen?

As your body ages, you begin producing less bone mass than is naturally broken down. This results in low bone density, which leads to osteoporosis. There are several factors that contribute to low bone density. Among them are a sedentary lifestyle, using tobacco, excessive alcohol use, low intake of calcium, and taking certain medications. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop osteoporosis, and it tends to be more common in women than in men.

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

Initially, you may not have symptoms, but osteoporosis can present itself in a number of ways:

  • Stooped posture
  • Back pain
  • "Shrinking" or losing height
  • A facture of the hip, wrist, spine, etc.

How is it Diagnosed?

Your doctor may suspect osteoporosis just based on your symptoms, but he or she may run tests to be sure. The most common one is dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), which measures the density of bones in your wrists, hips, and spine. Your doctor may also use ultrasound and computerized tomography (CT) scans.

How is it Treated?

In most cases, your doctor will prescribe medications that can help stop bone loss and help preserve bone mass. Hormone therapy is not as common as it once was, since it carries other risks. Your doctor may also suggest physical therapy, which will teach you exercises to improve your posture and build bone strength.

What is the Prognosis?

If you have suffered a fracture, it may take some time for you to heal and regain your strength. Beyond that, by staying active and taking the medication prescribed, you should be able to maintain your bone density. No matter what your age, there are steps you can take to keep your bones strong.

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