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Osteoporosis is a condition that leads to the bones becoming weak and brittle. The bones can become so weak and brittle, in fact, that simple stresses such as a fall or coughing can cause fractures quite easily. Some of the most common places for an osteoporosis related fracture to occur are in the wrist, the hip and the spine. Bone is a type of living tissue, and it is constantly being replaced and absorbed by the body.

When the creation of the new bone tissue is not able to keep up with the absorption of the old bone tissue, the result is osteoporosis. This condition is capable of affecting both men and women and it can affect people from all racial groups, though women who are Caucasian or Asian, especially those who have reached menopause are at the greatest risk.

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications

All of the bones in the body are in a constant state of renewing themselves. Old bone tissue is broken down and then new bone tissue is created and restored. When the body is young, new bone is being created more quickly than old bone is being broken down, and so the bone mass in the body is consistently growing. By the time people are in their early 20s, this is when peak bone mass is reached. When people begin to age, however, the bone mass is lost much more quickly than it is regained, resulting in osteoporosis.

Two of the most serious complications of osteoporosis are bone fractures in the spine and in the hip. Hip fractures occur most commonly as a result of falls. In order adults, postoperative complications following hip surgery or hip replacement can be disabling or fatal. Spinal fractures can often occur even if a patient has not fallen down because the vertebrae in the spine can become seriously weakened to the point where they can crumple and break easily.

Signs, Symptoms and Tests

In the earliest stages of the bone loss, there may be little to no symptoms. As the bones become significantly weakened by the bone loss of osteoporosis, certain signs and symptoms will begin to appear. These include back pain, stooped posture, loss of height, bone fractures that occur more easily than they should and hip pain. If bones are breaking more easily than they ought to, or if a patient is experiencing a loss of height over time, they should see a physician as soon as possible.

The most common test that physicians use to test for osteoporosis is DXA, a dual energy X-ray absortiometry procedure. The purpose of this procedure is to scan the body, measuring the density of the bones in the hips, the wrists and the spine as these are the areas that are most likely going to be impacted by the development of osteoporosis.

Treatment, Drugs and Prevention

The most common treatment option for people with osteoporosis is a bisphosphonate medication. These medications, such as Fosamax or Alendronate, Atelvia or Risedronate, Boniva or Ibandronate and Reclast or Zometa are designed to slow or stop the loss of bone with osteoporosis, or to help improve the growth of new bone tissue. Other options for treatment of osteoporosis include hormone related therapies such as estrogen therapy, parathyroid hormone therapy using Teriparatide, bone remodeling with Denosumab or calcitonin therapy using Fortical or Miacalcin. Working closely with a physician during this process is essential because there are a variety of different medications that can be used, and not every one is right for each patient.