Symptoms of osteoporosis
Jerry Owensby, MD, is board certified in Internal Medicine and certified by the International Society for Clinical Densitometry. She practices at Banner Baywood Medical Center in Mesa.
Question: I am in my late 50s and worried about osteoporosis. What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease of the skeleton the causes a loss of bone which leads to brittle and weak bones. The risk factors include:
- Caucasian and Asian ethnicity
- family history
- small frame
- inadequate calcium and vitamin D
- alcohol, smoking, caffeine
- chronic medical diseases/medications.
Unfortunately, there are no obvious symptoms of osteoporosis. A fracture (broken bone) may be the first indication that a person has osteoporosis. These fractures most often occur in the spine (vertebra), hip and forearm.
Fractures are usually associated with pain and can be debilitating, especially hip fractures. However, more than 50 percent of spine (vertebral/compression) fractures occur without pain. Such fractures can cause a curvature in the spine (kyphosis) and loss of height (one inch or more).
Fortunately, a Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) test can diagnose osteoporosis and osteopenia (less severe bone loss) prior to a fracture. A Vertebral Fracture Assessment (VFA) also can be performed at the same time and can diagnose vertebral fractures. These tests are done while you lie on a table and typically take 20 minutes. It does not hurt and is very safe. The radiation exposure is about the same as an airline flight or two hours of sun exposure.
Your physician can diagnose osteoporosis and recommend the best treatment for you. There are several good medications that help stop bone loss, rebuild bone and lower risk for fractures. A healthy diet, calcium, Vitamin D and weight-bearing exercise are also recommended.