Osteoporosis in Old Age



Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones that occurs when the bone mineral density decreases. Calcium and phosphate are the minerals essential for bone formation in the body. As you age, your body gradually loses the capacity to absorb enough calcium from your diet. Sometimes, calcium and phosphate are reabsorbed into the body from the bones leading to the weakening of the bone tissue. Since the bones become brittle, the risks of fractures become higher. These fractures mainly occur in the thighbone, vertebral bones, shinbone, arm bone and forearm bone. Approximately 10 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis.

Types of osteoporosis

  • Type I osteoporosis
  • Type II osteoporosis

Type I osteoporosis is six times more common in women than in men. It mostly affects women after they reach menopause and men after andropause and this condition is linked to the deficiency of estrogen in women and testosterone in men. Type I osteoporosis causes a rapid loss of the spongy inner part of the bones and increase the risk on wrist and spine fractures.

Type II osteoporosis on the other hand is noticed in people above 70 years of age. Age related deficiency in the production of Vitamin D in the body and diet related deficiency of Vitamin C are the two major causes of this type of osteoporosis. An increase in activity of the parathyroid glands can also cause Type II osteoporosis. This type is also more common in women than men.

Symptoms of osteoporosis

The symptoms of osteoporosis generally set in late. The commonest symptoms are:

  • Crouching posture
  • Bone tenderness
  • Neck Pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Fractures of the hips or wrists
  • Loss of height

Causes of osteoporosis

Some of the main causes of osteoporosis are as follows:

  • Drop in estrogen in women and testosterone in men
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Cushing syndrome
  • Bone cancer
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • High levels of corticosteroid due to medications used for asthma and COPD
  • Early menopause
  • Inadequate amount of calcium in diet
  • Low body weight
  • Smoking
  • High alcohol intake

Treatment of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis can be detected by a test called densiometry or DEXA scan. Some people also opt for Quantitative computed topography (QCT) which evaluates bone density but it is a rare and expensive process. The three most important aspects of treatment include intake of calcium supplements, exercise and medications.

Medicines like bisphosphonates, calcitonin and raloxifene are used in the treatment of osteoporosis.

Regular exercises that include resistance exercises, weight-bearing exercises, balancing exercises , jogging and walking help in keeping you healthy and reduce risks of fractures. A diet rich in calcium, vitamin D and protein should help. Giving up smoking and reducing the amount of alcohol intake is important.