• 28 million people are affected in the United States. Women are affected four times as often as men. One out of two women and one in eight men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease of the skeletal system. The bones lose density, become brittle and prone to fracture. It is the major cause of bone fractures in older people, especially postmenopausal women.

What causes it?

A certain amount of bone density is lost as a part of aging. During the mid-30s, everyone begins to lose very small amounts of bone. Bone loss accelerates at menopause, with some women losing up to 30% of bone mass in the first five years. There are certain risk factors that increase a person’s chance of having osteoporosis. Some are unavoidable such as being a post-menopausal female, being thin or “small boned” and aging. However many are avoidable. Smoking, alcohol use, long term use of corticosteroids, lack of exercise and low intake of dietary calcium all can contribute to the development of osteoporosis.What are the symptoms?Most times there are no symptoms until a fracture occurs or a vertebrae collapses. How is it diagnosed?Bone density loss can be diagnosed through the use of a DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan. This is a painless test very similar to an x-ray. How is it treated?Although the best treatment is prevention, there are a number of medications currently available that may help to increase bone density.

Estrogen replacement therapy is approved for both the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. It has been shown to reduce bone loss, increase bone density in the spine and the hips and reduce the risk of hip and spinal fractures in postmenopausal women.

Alendronate is a medication from the class of drugs called bisphosphonates. Like estrogen, alendronate is approved for both the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

Raloxifene also is approved for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. It is from a new class of drugs called Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs) that appear to prevent bone loss at the spine, hip, and total body.

Calcitonin is a naturally occurring hormone involved in calcium regulation and bone metabolism. In women who are at least 5 years beyond menopause, calcitonin slows bone loss, increases spinal bone density, and, according to anecdotal reports, relieves the pain associated with bone fractures. What research is being done?Several medications are currently under investigation and may someday expand the treatment options available. These include new forms of bisphosphonates, sodium fluoride, additional selective estrogen receptor modulators, parathyroid hormone, and vitamin D metabolites.Some of the related information found on Arthritis Insight:For support visit our Chat Room and Message Boards.
For medication information see our Medication Index.
For information about tests and blood work go to Tests & Labs.
For more sites about Osteoporosis check out our Web Links.For more information:Osteoporosis: by drdoc online
National Osteoporosis Foundation
Osteoporosis Center
Boning Up On Osteoporosis – The FDA

American College of Rheumatology
National Osteoporosis Foundation