Osteoporosis, which is a gradual loss of bone density that can leave you with thin, brittle (and very breakable) bones, isn't just a disease for the elderly. Some people develop it while they're still relatively young and have to battle it for decades in order to remain strong and healthy. Here are some things you should know about early-onset osteoporosis and how to spot it.
Some people are more at risk than others.
Women are predominantly at risk of developing osteoporosis, although men do develop the disease, especially later in life. However, men and women who are still far too young to be considered "elderly" can develop the disease when there are certain factors involved:
- there's a poor diet involved, including insufficient amounts of protein, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, and vitamin B12
- medications are taken that cause bone resorption, like glucocorticoids, some antihypertensive medications, diuretics, and anticonvulsants
- the use of steroids, in any form, while sometimes necessary for life-threatening conditions like asthma or Addison's disease, can cause the disease to emerge early
- a thin, light body frame and/or a family history of the disease
- women who have gone through menopause early, either due to the removal of their uterus or some other reason, whether or not they've taken hormone replacement therapy
- a marked Vitamin D deficiency
- gastrointestinal disease, which interferes with the absorption of nutrients like vitamin D, including celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and colitis
- smoking and/or heavy alcohol consumption
In addition, women who are very athletically active prior to age 30 and nutritionally deficient develop a syndrome known as AED, or athletic energy deficiency, which often leads to early-onset osteoporosis.
What can be done to diagnose early onset osteoarthritis?
The best thing that you can do is to be proactive and bring the possibility of early osteoporosis to the attention of your doctor, pointing out your risk factors. Primary care physicians are usually concerned with immediate, or acute, care problems and don't often consider long-term problems that aren't yet diagnosed. When they manage your long-term problems as well by handling your maintenance medications, they may not realize what other factors are in play that can cause osteoporosis in you at a young age.
Your doctor may suspect a problem if he or she finds clinical signs that might indicate a problem with bone density, like low vitamin D levels, but unless you bring it up, other warning signs like having difficulty getting up from a chair without using your arms to push and joint or muscle aches might go unnoticed.
Fortunately, it's fairly easy to confirm that you do or don't have osteoporosis through a bone density screening, Older versions of the test require you to have your hip bones scanned, but there are newer versions that can scan just the heel of your foot for the problem.
Osteoporosis is not only treatable, it's reversible, thanks to some of the drugs that are now available to victims. If you have any reason to be concerned that you're developing osteoporosis at a young age, bring it to your doctor's attention and ask for a bone scan to find out. That way you can start treatment and avoid experiencing painful fractures or weakened bones as you age. Contact a clinic like Sarasota Arthritis Center to learn more.