Important signs and symptoms of osteoporosis

Identifying the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis is vital if you want to arrest the progress of this disease and start treatment early.

If you are over the age of 40 and indulge in smoking or social drinking, you could well be at risk of developing osteoporosis. That risk multiplies two-fold if you are a woman! In the US alone, more than 44 million people suffer from osteoporosis.

Since this disease involves the gradual leaching away of bones, early detection of ‘porous’ bones is the best way to fight the disease. Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis are hard to detect

Understanding the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis:

Osteoporosis is known as the ‘silent disease’ because ‘thinning’ bones generally do not give themselves away. The disease comes into the open when a seemingly minor fall or activity leads to fractures.

Some of the early signs and symptoms of osteoporosis include:

1- Muscle cramps at night 2- Loss of tooth 3- Numbing of arms and legs after periods of inactivity

The above symptoms are often ignored by patients as they are generic in nature. Generally, patients with mild cases of osteoporosis are asymptomatic. At the most, their symptoms may be limited to pain in the muscles and the bones, particularly the back.

However, even in such patients, the spine may develop fractures when minimal strain is placed on it. Symptomatic osteoporosis is characterized by acute pain that does not radiate and localized tenderness that takes almost a week to subside.

As the disease progresses, more symptoms are observed, including:

1- Excruciating back pain due to a collapsed vertebra

2- Loss of up to 6 inches or more of height (some people develop a hunchback)

3- Persistent pain in the spine

4- Fatigue

5- Periodontal disease

6- Brittle fingernails

Even though these signs and symptoms of osteoporosis are more evident, generally, osteoporosis makes itself known in a dramatic fashion after a fracture in the wrist, hip, forearm or other bony site.

In the latter stages of the disease, some people develop a pronounced stoop in their back, called a dowager’s hump. This occurs when the bones in the spine collapse and become compressed due to fractures.

As the disease becomes worse, patients will suffer from disfigurement and acute debilitation.

Because the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis are so hard to detect, people in the high risk category are asked to undergo a bone density test. Such people include:

Women over 65 and men above 70 years of age Women or men who have the risk of developing osteoporosis People with a history of broken bones Women with early menopause Women who are off hormone treatment People who take medication such as prednisone and anti-seizure drugs

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