health & wellness

Most Common Symptoms And Causes Of Osteoporosis

Sheena Joseph | Dec 17 2019
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About 200 million people in the world are affected by osteoporosis. And about 40% of them sustain fractures due to fragility. Women are more at risk of weak bones because almost 30% of postmenopausal women have osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a disease which is characterised by loss of bone density. The term itself means 'porous bones'. Since the quality of bones is greatly reduced, the individual is prone to fracture every day.

Your bones go through a cycle of 200 days that involves two processes - osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Osteoclasts are breaking the bones down and osteoblasts are building them up again. It is similar to skin cells turnover. It is the same process that repairs and heal any damage. But if less bone is replaced than lost, the bones will become thinner.

Menopausal women experience a great drop in estrogen which is a hormone that protects bones among doing other duties. This leads to bone loss and leaves women to deal with fragile bones, among many other symptoms of menopause.

Most people do not foresee this terrible condition. But this is due to lack of awareness. Osteoporosis does not show up one day. You do not wake up one unfortunate day and find yourself with weak bones. It is a condition that develops gradually and if you detect the signs, you can prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis.

Here are some of the commonly seen symptoms of osteoporosis.


1. Weakening Grip

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The mineral density in your bones is a deciding factor in your strength. If you have been noticing your grip getting weaker for no visible reason, it is time to suspect the loss of bone. It is a sign you will come across in the early stage of osteoporosis. This is a common symptom of osteoporosis. Declining muscle strength and balance are not often detectable or easy to spot. But, the weak grip is something that you come across on your everyday life. Most studies show that postmenopausal women have a weaker grip than they had five or ten years ago. Older people also have a weaker grip not only due to declining muscle coordination but the loss of bone density as well.

2. Brittle Nails

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Nails are part of bones and a visible scale to measure bone health. Any change in the bone structure including deficiency of minerals or vitamins will reflect on the nails. Easily broken and brittle nails are a sign that your bones are losing strength. Weak nails are also a sign of early stage of osteoporosis. This is a common symptom of osteoporosis. However, you cannot confirm that osteoporosis is creeping up on you just because you have brittle nails. A lot of other factors can cause the same effect including the chemicals that comes in contact with nails during swimming and gardening. Minor damages or skin infections can also cause weak nails.


3. Receding Gums

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Your gums will not be showing signs of osteoporosis as soon as the nails. However, this is also considered a sign of early stage. You may take the receding gums more seriously than fingernails. But this is a less common symptom of osteoporosis. Receding gums is a condition when the root of the tooth is exposed. This will leave the teeth at risk of decay and infection. You may also be vulnerable to sensitivity. Most people pay attention to this symptom upon experiencing pain or sensitivity. In most cases, receding gums are a sign of osteoporosis. It indicates that the jaw bone is losing density. You can visit a dentist and screen the jaw for bone loss.


4. Back Pain

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Your backbone is responsible for keeping the entire body straight and carrying it around. If you weigh around 50-60 kg, your backbone should have the strength to support the body weight. When the bone starts losing density, it is becoming ill-equipped to carry the body weight. The later stages of osteoporosis will cause compression fractures in the spine. They are super-painful as a collapsed vertebrae pinching the nerves. It is likely to start as minor tenderness and become debilitating pain. Before the compression fractures in the back, you are likely to experience shoulder pain and neck pain. This is a common symptom of osteoporosis.

Also read: Seven Yoga Poses That Help To Reduce Back pain


5. Stooped Posture

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A stooped posture that begins like simply slouching is also a sign of later stages of osteoporosis. This is due to declining ability to stand up straight. Some changes that are part of poor posture are rounded shoulders, decreased low back curve, forward-leaning, and text neck. This posture will make it look like you are hunched over. This doesn’t happen overnight. It is a slow, gradual process.

Stooped back is called kyphosis and it can put pressure on the airways and make breathing tough. The posture limits the expansion of your lungs. You may not notice the change in posture soon. But the decline in oxygen intake will lead to a lot of yawning. So, if you have been yawning a lot even though you are well-rested and not tired, it might be time to take a look at your posture.


6. Loss Of Height

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This is an obvious sign of osteoporosis that is seen in the later stages. The bones have deteriorated significantly more and compression fractures in the spine will result in loss of height. This symptom is most commonly seen in older people. In younger patients, this symptom is not normal and should not be ignored. It is a kind of deformity resulted from vertebral compression fractures which are painful. Loss of height will not appear at once or without any other symptoms. If you pay attention to other signs in the beginning and treat them, you may not even experience loss of height.


7. Fracture From Minor Falls

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A healthy person’s bones will not break if they fall while walking. Minor falls do not cause fracture or injuries unless you fall on an unfortunate angle. But, if you have weak bones (osteoporosis) comes with the risk of fracture with a minor movement like stepping down from a stone or trying to climb on a ladder. In the advanced stages, people get injured by a strong cough or sneeze. Fragile bones can break while you are pulling on a rope or trying to lift an average-weighing box. It is dangerous for older people as a fracture on the hip or knees can be hard to recover from. Since the bones are not healthy, the chances of recovery are also grim.


Causes Of Osteoporosis

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Osteoporosis is more common in women. But that doesn't mean men are not at risk. Women undergo hormonal shifts as they age which leave them vulnerable to a decline in bone density. However, men have another set of risk factors. Being aware of what causes osteoporosis may help you an idea about how to cure osteoporosis. Here are some of the common causes of osteoporosis.


1. Early Menopause

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Declining levels of estrogen are directly related to a decline in bone density which results in osteoporosis. Menopause always comes with a steady decline in estrogen. Early menopause, before the age of 45 is a common cause for weak bones. The longer your body goes on with low estrogen levels, the weaker the bones will be. This is one of the common causes of osteoporosis. Having the ovaries removed or low estrogen levels due to medical condition or medications also results in a similar condition. Treatments for osteoporosis may include intake of vitamin D, vitamin K, and collagen supplements. Include estrogen-boosting foods in your diet as well.

Also read: 10 Common Menstruation Myths And Facts


2. Low Testosterone

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Bone density in men is directly related to testosterone levels. Low testosterone levels will increase the risk of osteoporosis significantly. Men will experience a decline in testosterone as they get older, which leads to thinning of bones in old age. This is one of the common causes of osteoporosis. Taking vitamin and mineral supplements while following a healthy lifestyle with minimal stress and high-quality sleep will lower the risk of low bone density.


3. Alcohol And Smoking

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Studies have shown that smoking is a major reason behind the decline in bone density. Alcohol also has a similar effect. These are common causes of osteoporosis. However, it is not clear if it is smoking and alcohol that causes low bone density or other health issues caused by. It is suggested that smoking and alcoholism has a negative impact on the general well-being which leads to weak bones. Any injury you have (including fractures) will take longer to heal if you are smoking or drinking alcohol because both these habits slow down the body's healing mechanism.


4. Sedentary Lifestyle

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Lack of exercise and inactivity can lead to a decline in bone mass and low bone mineral density. This can make you prone to osteoporosis at any age. Once you have low bone density, exercises like jumping or running or anything that has jerky rapid movements will result in a fracture. Rebuilding the bones will have to be done through diet, supplements, and a limited number of exercises. Vigorous exercises are a complete no-no at this point. Start practising strength-training exercises from your early 20s to prevent the onset of osteoporosis.

Also read: 13 Body Toning Exercises For Females


5. Abnormal Thyroid Activity

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Thyroid hormone influences the rate of bone replacement. If there is too much thyroxine in your body, you will lose bone faster than it is being replaced. Low thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level also has a similar effect. This is one of the commonly seen causes of osteoporosis. You can lower the risk of osteoporosis due to abnormal thyroid activity. If you or anyone in your family member have an overactive thyroid, test the hormone levels every month. The abnormal hormone level has to stay that way for a while for it to influence bone loss. Hence, if you tackle the issue fast enough, it will not cost you.


6. Malabsorption

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No matter what you eat, if your body cannot absorb the nutrients, it will reflect on your entire health including bone density. Gastrointestinal disorders like celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and short bowel syndrome can increase the risk of secondary osteoporosis. These diseases will interfere with the absorption of calcium and other nutrients essential for bone metabolism.


7. Chronic kidney Disorder

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People with chronic kidney disorder (CKD) are prone to developing osteoporosis. It starts as a metabolic bone disease which will lead to bone thinning. The extra parathyroid hormone will be present in the blood when kidneys are not functioning properly. Bones absorb calcium from the bloodstream and it is vital to their health. CKD will throw the mineral levels in the blood off the balance.

Also read: Do Not Ignore These 10 Signs That Tells Your Kidney Isn’t Healthy


8. Vitamin D Deficiency

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Vitamin D deficiency will disrupt the balance phosphorus in the body. The high phosphorus levels will cause the body to make more parathyroid hormones than needed. This will draw calcium out of the bones to your blood. No matter how much calcium your diet has, bones are not benefitting from it if there is a lack of vitamin D. This is one of the most common causes of osteoporosis. Vitamin D-rich foods like orange, soy milk, and dairy products will solve this problem.


9. Diabetes

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People with type 1 diabetes are likely to have poor bone quality due to low bone mass. They start losing bone mass in their 20s and develops osteoporosis later in their life. Tailoring a lifestyle that keeps blood sugar under control will lower the risk of developing osteoporosis. If anyone in your family has osteoporosis, you can consult a nutritionist in your early 20s itself to prevent the onset of osteoporosis.

Also read: Understanding Fast And Slow Carbs For Weight Management

Once your bones have started losing mass, you can slow down the process with supplements and nutrition. However, this will not be the same reversing the entire damage. At the best, you can prevent further bone loss and fractures. You can also rebuild the bones to an extent. However, this is a very slow process with less visible results. The best method is to anticipate the chances of developing osteoporosis and preventing the onset.