It is important to know that bones are made up of living tissue that renews itself in a continual process. This renewal process is your bones' natural repair cycle. The process of bone renewal is similar to filling in potholes on a road. First, existing bone tissue is broken down and removed by bone-resorbing cells, leaving tiny pits behind. Then, bone-forming cells lay down new bone tissue to fill in these pits.
However, as we age, the breaking down of bone tissue may begin to outpace the creation of new bone. Over time, this may make bones thinner, potentially putting you at greater risk for a fracture.
Unfortunately, you cannot feel this happening in your body. It feels no different to have thinner bones than it does normal bones. This lack of symptoms is why osteoporosis is often called a "silent" disease. You may not even know you have osteoporosis until you break a bone or a test reveals you have low bone mineral density.
The only way to know if you have osteoporosis is to take a test that your doctor can prescribe. This will be discussed in a moment. It's important to understand osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a serious disease, not just a normal part of aging. And while osteoporosis is not a sudden disease, it's important to be proactive and know the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis in order to reduce your risk of fracture.
Decreased Estrogen Causes Bone Loss: Since the hormone estrogen helps protect against bone loss, less estrogen in your body results in more bone loss. That's why the years after menopause—when a woman's ovaries stop producing estrogen—is the time of life when bone loss is most rapid. In fact, women can lose up to 20% of their bone mass in the 5 to 7 years following menopause.
Men are also susceptible to bone loss later in life because of loss of testosterone, genetic factors, and aging.
Osteoporotic Bones Can Break Easily: Osteoporotic bones are thin and fragile, and can break easily. Fractures can occur in almost any bone, and once you have one, your risk of having more fractures increases. Without proper treatment, osteoporosis can progress and fractures can occur without you even noticing them. One vulnerable area is your spine. Common signs of a fracture in your spine include:
- Height loss
- Curvature of the spine
- Acute back pain
Talk to your doctor for more information about how to diagnose osteoporosis.
- Source: Papadakis MA, McPhee SJ, Rabow MW. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment. 54th ed. Lange; 2015.