Osteoporosis: when bones become brittle

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Early therapy is crucial for the course of the disease

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

"Dull lower back pain is often the first symptom to indicate osteoporosis, while severe, selective pain indicates an advanced stage," explains Dr. Ramin Nazemi from orthonet-NRW, an association of established orthopedic surgeons in North Rhine-Westphalia. In addition, changes in posture and reduced body size indicate a decrease in bone mass. In the late stage, many patients experience broken bones that occur for no apparent reason. Even minimal loads such as stooping, a slight fall or even a simple sneeze may then be enough to cause fractures. Not only do they cause extremely severe pain, they often cause further fractures and complications. As a result, many affected people no longer trust even the smallest movements and live constantly in fear.

Osteoporosis is a metabolic disease of the bones, in which the organism breaks down more bone mass than new. As a result, the skeleton loses stability. The causes are genetic factors, estrogen deficiency after the menopause, permanent cortisone intake, hyperthyroidism or other diseases. But also the way of life, especially nutrition, plays an important role. There is also a lack of physical activity. "Many patients lay the foundation for their illness in childhood, as the basis for strong bones is created in the growth phase," reports Dr. Nazemi. Basically, however, a kind of “account” for bone stability can be established up to the age of 40. Regular exercise, calcium-rich food 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 foods rich in phosphates such as meat or sausages, coffee and cola.

A simple bone density measurement is sometimes sufficient to determine osteoporosis. However, computed tomography, certain blood tests or mobility tests by an orthopedist often provide information. If the specialist comes to the appropriate diagnosis, special medications are an important part of the therapy. There are now a number of medicinal substances that specifically stop bone loss, stimulate their build-up and thus protect them from painful and serious fractures. In addition, orthopedic surgeons can, if necessary, strengthen the spine with surgery or replace an unstable joint to avoid further injuries. However, early professional treatment can successfully stop the progression of the disease in many patients, reduce the risk of complications and even increase the bone density again. (pm)

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