What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a disease in which there is a loss of bone mass and destruction of bone tissue. This process causes weakening of the bones and makes them more likely to break. The bones most often affected are the hips, spine and wrists.

Osteoporosis affects over 10 million Americans over the age of 50, with women four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. Estrogen deficiency is one of the main causes of bone loss in women during and after menopause. Women may lose up to 20 percent of their bone mass in the five to seven years following menopause.

What are the symptoms?

Osteoporosis is often called the silent disease because people with osteoporosis may not develop any symptoms. Some may have pain in their bones and muscles, particularly in their back. Occasionally, a collapsed vertebra may cause severe pain, decrease in height or deformity in the spine.

What treatment options are available?

  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) has proven to reduce bone loss, increase bone density and reduce the risk of hip and spinal fractures in postmenopausal women.
  • Bisphosphonates reduce bone loss, increases bone density and reduce the risk of fractures. Examples of this type of medicine include Fosamax, Actonel and Boniva.

What preventive tests are available?

An optional exam available at Baptist Health Breast Center-Little Rock is bone densitometry. This exam detects early bone loss by measuring bone mineral density. This measurement can often be helpful in deciding whether to begin a prevention or treatment plan. To schedule an exam, contact Baptist Health HealthLine at 1-888-227-8478.

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