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What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a long-term medical condition that causes your bones to become weak, brittle, and more likely to fracture. Osteoporosis occurs when your body absorbs more bone than it makes. It is also caused by a lack of calcium and estrogen (female hormone).

What increases my risk for osteoporosis?

  • Age older than 35
  • Low estrogen levels
  • Female gender
  • Alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine
  • Lack of calcium and vitamin D in your foods
  • Lack of exercise
  • Some illnesses, such as thyroid diseases, bone cancer, and long-term lung diseases
  • Certain medicines, such as steroids, anticonvulsants, and blood-thinners

What are the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis?

You may not have any signs or symptoms. You may break a bone after a muscle strain, bump, or fall. A break usually occurs in the hip, spine, or wrist. A collapsed vertebra (bone in your spine) may cause severe back pain or loss of height from bent posture.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

  • Blood and urine tests measure your calcium, vitamin D, and estrogen levels.
  • An x-ray may show a fracture or collapsed vertebra.
  • A bone density test compares your bone thickness with what is expected for someone of your age, gender, and ethnicity.
  • A CT scan , or CAT scan, is a type of x-ray that uses a computer to take pictures of your bones. The pictures may show thinned bones or a fracture. You may be given contrast dye to help your bones show up better in the pictures. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

How is osteoporosis treated?

Medicines may be given to prevent bone loss, build new bone, and increase estrogen. These medicines help prevent fractures and may be given as a pill or injection. Ask your caregiver for more information on these medicines.

How can I help prevent bone loss?

  • Eat healthy foods that are high in calcium. This helps keep your bones strong. Good sources of calcium are milk, cheese, broccoli, tofu, almonds, and canned salmon and sardines.
  • Increase your vitamin D intake. Vitamin D is in fish oils, some vegetables, and fortified milk, cereal, and bread. Vitamin D is also formed in the skin when it is exposed to the sun. Ask your caregiver how much sunlight is safe for you.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask your caregiver how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Do not have alcohol or caffeine. They decrease bone mineral density, which can weaken your bones.
  • Exercise. Ask your caregiver about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise can help build and strengthen bone.
  • Do not smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking can increase your risk for osteoporosis.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • You have pain when you do your daily activities.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have severe pain in your chest, back, bones, muscles, or joints.
  • You have increasing pain after a fall.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.