Osteoporosis is a chronic bone disease that occurs when bone loss is accelerated. This loss of density causes brittle bones, which can facilitate vertebral fractures. Although it is a very frequent problem that affects many people in the world, it is possible to prevent and treat it. We, at Instituto Clavel would like you to know more about it.
Bones are not static structures, rather they go through alternate periods of degeneration and growth as a result of the action of various hormones, our diet and physical activity. It is estimated that peak bone mass is reached at 30 years of age and from this moment a process of natural loss begins.
However, when this loss of bone density is abnormally accelerated, we may be facing a case of osteoporosis. In this disease, as its name indicates, the bones become more porous and the number and size of the cavities inside increase, making them more fragile and less resistant to impacts. All this translates into an increased risk of fractures.
Causes of osteoporosis
There are various causes of osteoporosis, but we can summarize them in a general way in the following points:
Genetic factors: these are unpreventable, and include factors such as family history, age, gender, ethnicity, among others.
- Hormonal factors: hormonal imbalances, both excess and deficiency, and thyroid problems have been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis.
- Nutrition: a diet poor in calcium and vitamin D, or eating disorders that restrict the consumption of certain nutrients can contribute to loss of bone density.
- Diseases: some conditions like celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or cancer can increase the risk of osteoporosis.
- Medical treatments: some drugs used to treat other diseases, such as cancer, may be a risk factor for osteoporosis.
- Lifestyle: daily habits such as a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, tobacco and alcohol consumption or not getting enough exposure to sunlight also contribute to the increased risk of suffering from this bone problem.
Symptoms of osteoporosis: a silent epidemic
One of the main problems with osteoporosis is that it is a disease that does not cause symptoms until it is very advanced. This is so much the case that it is known as the silent epidemic and can be asymptomatic until bone loss is already so notable that a low impact, such as a slight fall, can cause a fracture of the hip, femur or wrist, among others.
It is complicated to diagnose, since sometimes not even a fracture will indicate the presence of this disease. This is because, although it is usual for a vertebral fracture to cause acute and intense pain, in some cases the fracture of a vertebra may not cause symptoms, or it may cause only mild discomfort, so the affected person does not go to the doctor.
In these cases, the opportunity to act to curb the loss of bone mass is missed and there is a risk of suffering new fractures. That is why at Instituto Clavel we emphasize the importance of prevention as the first measure against this disease, and offer you several tips at the end of the article. Likewise, in case the problem has already occurred, it is essential to see an expert in osteoporosis to have it treated correctly.
Treatments for osteoporosis
The treatment of osteoporosis will depend on the stage of development of the disease. If this is in an initial phase and no fracture has occurred, one option may be pharmacological treatment with bone resorption inhibitors, and bone forming agents. The former help stop mineral loss and the latter stimulate new bone formation.
However, if a fracture due to osteoporosis has already occurred, additional measures should be taken as directed by the medical professional. If the case has a good prognosis, the preferred option may be a conservative treatment that includes rest, pain reliever and orthosis. However, these measures do not always achieve good results, since these types of fractures can become quite complex. Pain does not always subside and prolonged rest can lead to loss of muscle mass, an acceleration of bone demineralization, and even the fracture may cause deformities of the spine or compression of the spinal cord.
In these cases, spinal surgery is the main solution. Operations such as vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty will allow pain relief and stabilize the affected structure. Both these operations involve an injection of liquid cement inside the fractured vertebra, but in kypholasty, a balloon is also introduced which, when inflated, restores part of the height lost by the vertebral body after the fracture.
To perform this type of surgery safely and with the maximum guarantees, it is essential to go to highly qualified neurosurgeons. At Instituto Clavel Barcelona and Madrid we have the most experienced medical professionals in spinal conditions, who apply the most cutting-edge surgical techniques. Do you need more info? Contact us here and tell us about your case.
Prevention of osteoporosis
As we mentioned earlier, there are lifestyle factors that increase the risk of osteoporosis and that do depend on us. Therefore, it is evident that prevention is one of the first measures to be taken into account when faced with this problem.
Practicing healthy lifestyle habits is essential to take care of the health of our bones. Here, we list the most important:
- No smoking.
- Limit consumption of alcohol.
- Get exercise.
- Get exposure to sunlight (in moderation) to ensure a sufficient supply of vitamin D.
- Maintain a healthy diet, making sure to include enough calcium.
Although following these habits is not a total guarantee against osteoporosis, they all contribute to general health and can greatly improve the quality of life. If despite these efforts, you do get osteoporosis, it is important to act quickly and go to the specialist so they can help you. The first step will be to establish a correct diagnosis using imaging techniques and tests such as bone densitometry, combined with a personalized assessment in which possible risk factors are taken into account. This will be the basis for determining the extent of the disease and taking the best steps to contain it.
Finally, at Instituto Clavel we want to remind you how important your bones are to maintain a good quality of life. The skeletal system is the main support from which, through the corresponding inserts, the muscles and soft tissues are supported, making it essential for movement. Not only that, but the bones also protect the internal organs and various cavities, and store some minerals - such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium - essential for certain vital functions such as the transition of nerve impulses and the preservation and repair of cells and tissues. They are also key in the production of leukocytes and erythrocytes, through the so-called red bone marrow, and of adipocytes and red blood cells, through the yellow bone marrow.
For all these reasons, our recommendation is that you adopt a healthy lifestyle that allows you to take care of your bones, and go to a specialized professional whenever necessary.