Osteopenia and Osteoporosis

Osteopenia and Osteoporosis

During life our body continually remodels bone: old bone is reabsorbed, and new bone is created. Every 10 years your entire skeleton is replaced. As we age, this process slows down. Bone loss occurs when old bone is reabsorbed, and less new bone is formed. Some bone loss is normal as we age. Bone mineral density (BMD) is the density of your bones and represents the strength of your bones.

When you have low BMD, you have lost bone mass which increases your risk for a fracture. Measurement of your bone density is accomplished with a noninvasive test called a DEXA scan. The DEXA scan measures the minerals in your bone, and bone density in the spine and hip bones. A DEXA scan is used to diagnose osteopenia and osteoporosis and to predict your risk for fractures. It is also used to determine how well treatment for osteoporosis is working.

What is Osteopenia?

Osteopenia is decreased bone mineral density which means your bones are thinning and fragile and you may be in danger for a bone fracture. The cause of osteopenia is insufficient formation of new bone to offset normal bone loss as we age. Osteopenia can lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is brittle, fragile bones.

Postmenopausal women and women over the age of 50 are at risk for osteopenia due to a fall in estrogen levels. In men, a fall in testosterone levels can cause bone loss with aging. However, there are some chronic health conditions that lead to bone loss including eating disorders, being confined to a wheelchair or bed unable to walk or exercise, chronic kidney disease, type one diabetes, and an overactive thyroid gland. Also, some medications to treat some medical conditions can cause osteopenia and even osteoporosis.

A diagnosis of osteopenia is not as serious as osteoporosis, however when you also smoke and drink alcohol, have a family history of osteoporosis, have rheumatoid arthritis, or use steroids it can increase your risk for fractures of the vertebrae, hip and wrist. There are some steps you can take to lower your risk including stopping smoking and drinking alcohol, getting exercise, and taking an adequate of calcium and Vitamin D by eating the right foods and taking nutritional supplements. Not everyone with osteopenia needs medical treatment.

Osteoporosis (Porous bone)

This is a disease of very low bone density and poor-quality (brittle) bone. There are no symptoms. Osteoporosis significantly increases the risk of a fracture.  Osteoporosis runs in families. One in three women and one in five men over age 50 is at risk of an osteoporotic fracture, and that risk increases with age. About 50% of women over age 50 will suffer a hip, spine or wrist fracture.

A fracture of the spine is called a compression fracture and occurs without any injury and causes intense pain. A loss of height is a symptom of osteoporosis and disc degeneration. A kyphosis or hump can be caused by osteoporosis. Hip fractures are painful and serious, usually require surgical repair and frequently result in a loss of independence and death. Many people die within a year after suffering a hip fracture.

The medications used to treat osteoporosis include bisphosphates, estrogen, a form of parathyroid hormone called Forte, calcitonin to reduce blood calcium, and Denosumab a monoclonal antibody called Prolia. All treatments have adverse side effects, some are very serious.

There are a number of effective medications available to treat osteoporosis.  Your OrthoIllinois Rheumatologist can explain the treatment options and recommend the course most appropriate for you.

A Multidisciplinary Team

At Ortho Illinois, our team of  board-certified Rheumatologists are experts in Osteoporosis and work to provide the most advanced and individualized care based on the latest research and guidelines.

Ortho Illinois has offices in Algonquin, Elgin, and Rockford for your convenience. Contact us to schedule a consultation and receive the correct diagnosis and treatment from our renowned physicians.