What Is Osteoporosis? What You Need to Know
What Is an Osteoporosis Fracture?
A fracture is a break in a bone. If you have osteoporosis, your bones become thin, lose structure, and become fragile. You could lift a bag of groceries and suffer a fracture or a collapsed vertebra in your back. Or you might stoop down to tie your shoe and feel a sudden, severe pain from a fracture.
While the pain from the fracture may subside, you may develop continued chronic pain. As spinal bones collapse, deformities such as a dowager's hump, and other areas will become obvious to both you and people around you. You may feel stiff and have trouble being active.
There are ways to prevent and treat osteoporosis. So no one has to suffer with fractures and chronic pain. Learn more about preventing fractures in this guide.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
We don't know a lot about what causes osteoporosis. We do know how osteoporosis develops throughout a person's life. Bones are complex, living tissue. Your body constantly breaks down old bone and rebuilds new bone. This bone-building process is called "remodeling."
As you are growing up, your body builds more bone than it removes. During childhood, your bones become larger and stronger. Peak bone mass occurs when you have the maximum amount of bone mass you will ever have. For most people, this usually happens during the third decade of life. At a certain age, the bone remodeling process changes. New bone gets laid down at a slower rate. This slowdown results in a decrease in the total amount of bone you have.
If this loss of bone reaches a certain point, you have osteopenia. When bone loss becomes more severe, you have osteoporosis. Both men and women with osteopenia or osteoporosis are at a higher risk of fractures.
In the early stages of osteoporosis, there may be no signs or symptoms. As the breakdown and removal of bone continues at a faster pace than bone building, the degree of bone loss may be detectable on a bone mineral density (BMD) test or bone density scan.
What Is My Risk for Osteoporosis?
It's smart to know the risk factors for osteoporosis. By changing those risk factors you can control, you can reduce your chance of osteoporosis. Key risk factors for fractures include the following.
Osteoporosis seems to run in families. If your mother had hip fracture or spinal collapse fracture, chances are you are at risk for osteoporosis. That means you are at risk of reduced bone mass and fractures.
Women are four times more likely than men to get osteoporosis. But men also suffer from osteoporosis.
The risk of osteoporosis increases with age. Women over the age of 50 have the greatest risk of developing osteoporosis. Anyone of any age can have osteoporosis. But the older you are, the more risk you have of fractures and osteoporosis.