We know: The Facts about Osteoporosis

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fractures, especially of the hip, spine, and wrist, although any bone can be affected.

What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is often called the "silent disease" because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People may not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes a fracture or a vertebra to collapse. Collapsed vertebrae may initially be felt or seen in the form of severe back pain, loss of height, or spinal deformities such as kyphosis or stooped posture.

Who does osteoporosis affect?

Osteoporosis is a major public health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans, or 55 percent of the people 50 years of age or older. In the U.S. today, 10 million individuals are estimated to already have the disease and almost 34 million more are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis.

  • Eighty percent of those affected by osteoporosis are women.
  • One in two women and one in four men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in her/his remaining lifetime.
  • While osteoporosis is often thought of as an older person's disease, it can strike at any age.

What treatments are available for Osteoporosis?

Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, the following medications are approved by the FDA for postmenopausal women to prevent and/or treat osteoporosis:

  • Bisphosphonates

  • Alendronate (brand name Fosamax®)
    Risedronate (brand name Actonel®)
    Calcitonin (brand name Miacalcin®)
  • Estrogen/Hormone Therapy
  • Estrogens (brand names, such as Climara® Estrace®, Estraderm®, Estratab®, Ogen®, Ortho-Est®, Premarin®, Vivelle®, and others)
    Estrogens and Progestins (brand names, such as Activella™, FemHrt®, Premphase®, Prempro®, and others)
  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Teriparatide (PTH (1-34), brand name Fortéo®)
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs)
  • Raloxifene (brand name Evista®)

What can people do to prevent Osteoporosis?

By about age 20, the average woman has acquired 98 percent of her skeletal mass. Building strong bones during childhood and adolescence can be the best defense against developing osteoporosis later. There are four steps, which together, can optimize bone health and help prevent osteoporosis. They are:

  • A balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D;
  • Weight-bearing exercise;
  • A healthy lifestyle with no smoking or excessive alcohol intake; and
  • Bone density testing and medication, when appropriate.

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