Do you think you may have osteoporosis? How do you know? And when should you call your doctor? It's called the “silent disease” because the signs aren't always clear. Often, people don't know they have it until they break a bone, called a fracture. But early discovery may save you from painful fractures and even disability.
You're at higher risk of osteoporosis if:
- You're over 50.
- You're female.
- You're postmenopausal.
- You have a small, thin frame.
- You have a family history of the disease.
- You take steroids for a long period of time.
- You take other medications that raise the risk.
- You have other conditions that raise your risk, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
- You smoke.
You may want to call your doctor if:
- You're a woman age 65 or over and haven't had a bone density test.
- You're a man age 70 or over who has not had a bone density test.
Spine fractures are the most common injury from osteoporosis. If you have symptoms of a spinal fracture, you should see your doctor.
Common ones include:
- Sudden, severe back pain
- Back pain that gets worse when standing or walking, but gets a bit better when you lie down
- Back pain when bending or twisting
- Loss of height
- Curved or stooped shape to your spine
You can have had a series of fractures and not know it. That can cause the bones in your back to gradually break down. As your back begins to compress, it can cause the spine to curve forward, lowering your height and causing the body to be more hunched forward. If severe, this can affect movement and your internal organs. Look for these warning signs that this may have happened:
- Digestive problems like heartburn, trouble eating, and weight loss
- Back pain and chest pain
- Breathing problems -- your lungs may not work well
Osteoporosis can show up in hip and wrist fractures, too. If you notice a problem, call your doctor.