Osteoporosis: when bones become brittle

Early therapy crucial for the course of the disease

11.04.2012

Osteoporosis develops slowly and therefore often begins unnoticed. Many sufferers only learn about their disease after a bone fracture. Nationwide, around eight million people suffer from osteoporosis, women about five times more often than men - usually without knowing it. The sooner physicians recognize the so-called bone loss, the better the therapy will start. With early orthopedic treatment, the decreasing bone density can even be reversed.

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"Dull, low back pain is often the first symptom of osteoporosis, while severe, puncture painspeak at an advanced stage, "explains Dr. Ramin Nazemi from orthonet-NRW, an association of established orthopedists in North Rhine-Westphalia. In addition, postural changes as well as a reduced body size indicate a decrease of the bone substance. In the late stages, many patients experience bone fractures that occur for no apparent reason. Even minimal stresses such as stooping, a slight fall or even simple sneezing may be enough to cause fractures. These not only cause extreme pain but often lead to further fractures and complications. Many sufferers do not dare to follow even the smallest movements and live in constant fear.

Osteoporosis is a metabolic disease of the bones in which the organism degrades more bone than it regenerates. As a result, the skeleton loses stability. The causes include genetic factors, estrogen deficiency after menopause, permanent cortisone intake, thyroid overfunction or other diseases. But the way of life, especially nutrition, plays a big role. There is also a lack of physical activity."Many patients lay the foundation of their disease as early as infancy, as the basis for strong bones is formed in the growth phase," reports Dr. med. Nazemi. In principle, however, it is possible to build up a kind of "account" for bone stability until the age of 40.Regular exercise, calcium-rich diet and an adequate supply of vitamin D already make an important contribution to prevention. It is also important to avoid the consumption of "bone robbers" such as nicotine and alcohol and phosphate-rich foods such as meat or sausage, coffee and cola.

To detect osteoporosis, sometimes just a simple bone density measurement is sufficient. However, computed tomography, certain blood tests or mobility tests by an orthopedist often provide information. If the specialist comes to an appropriate diagnosis, special drugs are an important part of the therapy. There are now a number of drug substances that specifically stop the bone loss, stimulate their construction and thus protect against painful and consequential breaks. In addition, orthopedic surgeons may strengthen the spine by surgery or replace an unstable joint to avoid further injury. However, early disease treatment can successfully halt disease progression in many patients, reduce the risk of complications, and even increase bone mineral density.(pm)

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