What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become weak and are more likely to fracture or break. It is called a “silent” disease because bone loss occurs often without your knowing it.

After menopause, however, women begin to lose bone at an even faster rate. Osteoporosis develops when your body cannot replace bone as fast as it is broken down.

Is it a common disease?

Yes. It is a very common disease. According to estimates, there are about 300 million people with osteoporosis in India. As people grow older, the number of patients with osteoporosis keeps getting bigger.

Who is at risk for osteoporosis?

Your risk for osteoporosis is higher if you have a

  • Family history of the disease
  • Postmenopausal (age 60 or older)
  • A younger woman with irregular or no menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
  • Thin or have a small frame
  • Caucasian or Asian
  • Eating a diet low in calcium and vitamin D
  • Getting little or no exercise
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Have rheumatoid arthritis

What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis does not have any noticeable symptoms. As the bones are fragile, a small fall may result in a fracture. As vertebral fractures happen, the patient may notice a gradual height reduction. A spinal fracture can produce a deformity or pain in the back.

How is it diagnosed?

A bone density test (DXA scan) can help determine your risk of fracture. If you are over

65 or 5 years after menopause and do not have any of these other risk factors for osteoporosis, you should still have a bone density test. If you ever had a fracture following a trivial fall or have any risk factors for osteoporosis, you need to get a DXA scan done at the earliest.

Once osteoporosis is diagnosed, we will need to do additional blood tests and urine tests to exclude any pathology responsible for osteoporosis like parathyroid disease.

How do you treat it?

Various options for treatment exist. These broadly can be classified into those which prevent bone from getting eroded (anti resorptives) and those which build bones (bone anabolic agents)

Anti resorptives:

  • Bisphosphonates (alendronate, risedronate, ibandronate, zolendronate)
  • Raloxifene
  • Estrogen
  • Bone anabolic agents: Teriparatide