9 Surprising Signs & Symptoms of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is often called a “silent disease” because women who have it often do not know that they have it until it’s too late and they have broken a bone. As a result, unfortunately, 50% of women over the age of 50 will suffer a bone fracture as a result of osteoporosis.

And, unlike broken bones in children (which heal relatively quickly) bone fractures in adults over 50 raise the risk of premature death by about 50% in both men and women. Broken hips are particularly dangerous in older adults, with 33% of adults over 50 dying within one year of fracturing their hip.

Of course, a very common and accurate test for osteoporosis – dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, also called DXA or “DEXA” – is available. But many women don’t realize how dangerous osteoporosis can be and simply put-off getting a bone density test until it is too late.

Am I at Risk for Osteoporosis?

DEXA scans are typically not recommended for women until the age of 65 – unless they have certain risk factors for osteoporosis including: low body weight, steroid usage, smoking, a family history of osteoporosis, or a history of previous bone fracture(s).

Women are four times as likely to develop osteoporosis as men. And while half of women over age 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis, only one quarter of men will. Post-menopausal women lose the most bone — up to 20 percent or more — during the first 10 years after menopause.

Alcohol use, poor diet (low in calcium and vitamin D), and a sedentary lifestyle also put a person at risk for osteoporosis. Certain medications may also increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, including antiepileptics, proton pump inhibitors, thiazolidinediones for type 2 diabetes, SSRIs for depression and anxiety, and some breast and prostate cancer treatments.

Surprising Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis

While osteoporosis is called a “silent disease,” it isn’t always that quiet if you know what to look for. There are actually quite a few additional common – and surprising – signs that you might be suffering from osteoporosis and should schedule a DEXA scan.

If you are experiencing any of the issues below, you should discuss the possibility of a bone density scan with your doctor to rule out bone loss.

#1. Warning Sign of Osteoporosis: Getting Shorter

Losing height is the most common sign that your spine is shrinking. Measure yourself annually so you can spot this early.

#2. Warning Sign of Osteoporosis: Back & Neck Pain

Unexplained back and neck pain can have many causes. But bone loss can cause a compression fracture or collapsed vertebra in the spine that cause mild to severe pain.

#3. Warning Sign of Osteoporosis: Hunch Back

If it feels uncomfortable to stand straight, or you notice that your posture is becoming hunched, or you can feel a hump in your upper back, it could be a sign of spinal bone loss.

#4. Warning Sign of Osteoporosis: Shortness of Breath

Most people assume that breathing problems are due to lung disease. But when the spine compresses due to bone loss or fracture, lung capacity may be reduced, causing shortness of breath. Because shortness of breath can be a symptom of many serious health issues, always get it checked.

#5. Warning Sign of Osteoporosis: Brittle Fingernails 

Nails that break easily can be an indication that a person is not getting enough calcium in the diet – or that the body is not absorbing sufficient calcium. Vertical ridges in the fingernails, especially, can be a sign of calcium deficiency.

#6. Warning Sign of Osteoporosis: Gastrointestinal Problems

Bone loss is connected to several types of GI issues. Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and other GI diseases can interfere with calcium absorption. Additionally, steroids used to treat GI issues can also lower bone density.

#7. Warning Sign of Osteoporosis: Dental Problems

Tooth loss can be caused by bone loss in the jaw area and may be an indication of decreased bone density in the jaw and in other areas of the body, as well.  Pay close attention to this sign if you’re losing teeth too easily.

#8. Warning Sign of Osteoporosis: Weak Grip  

Low grip strength is often associated with decreased muscle strength, an increase in frailty, and an elevated risk of falling and breaking bones. Your doctor can measure your grip strength with a simple device called a hand dynamometer.

#9. Warning Sign of Osteoporosis: Serial or Yo-Yo Weight Loss

Maintaining a healthy weight can help ward off many serious diseases. But being a serial dieter – or going on crash diets or severe calorie restricted programs – interferes with bone nutrition and increases the risk for bone loss.

How Doctors Treat Osteoporosis

It is never too late to take measures to avoid becoming one of the 50% of women who may have a bone fracture as a result of osteoporosis. If you have any of the risk factors for osteoporosis – or any of the signs of bone loss above – talk to your doctor about scheduling a DEXA bone density scan.

It is recommended that women over age 50 and men over 70 get 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily from food first and supplement with pills only if necessary. (Women under age 50 and men under age 70 should get 1,000 mg.)

While there are many medications for osteoporosis on the market, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) can prevent osteoporosis by restoring the body’s natural hormone balance – rather than by using harsh and hazardous drugs produced in the laboratory.  READ MORE ABOUT BHRT FOR OSTEOPOROSIS

Osteoporosis Doctor | Austin, TX

If you are a perimenopausal or menopausal woman living in the greater Austin, TX area schedule a consultation with Dr. Ruthie Harper to determine if you are at risk for bone loss. She can help you naturally and effectively take action to maintaining strong, healthy bones after menopause … and for the rest of your life!

Austin, TX Osteoporosis Doctor: 512.343.9355