osteoporosis

/os'tee oh peuh roh"sis/, n. Pathol.
a disorder in which the bones become increasingly porous, brittle, and subject to fracture, owing to loss of calcium and other mineral components, sometimes resulting in pain, decreased height, and skeletal deformities: common in older persons, primarily postmenopausal women, but also associated with long-term steroid therapy and certain endocrine disorders.
[1840-50; OSTEO- + Gk pór(os) passage, PORE2 + -OSIS]

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Generalized loss of bone density, causing skeletal weakness.

Around age 40, the rate of bone resorption in humans starts to exceed the rate of bone formation. Women experience accelerated bone loss after menopause, when the estrogen level decreases. When the amount of bone falls below a certain threshold, fractures occur with little or no trauma. Prevention begins with adequate calcium intake in youth, when bone mass is built, and then throughout life. Weight-bearing exercise and vitamin D are important at all ages. Medications can inhibit bone resorption or prevent bone loss in patients who are at risk for developing osteoporosis.

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      disease characterized by the thinning of bones (bone), with a consequent tendency to sustain fractures (fracture) from minor stresses. The disorder is most common in postmenopausal women over age 50. The exact cause of osteoporosis is unknown. In persons afflicted with the disorder, the tiny rigid plates forming the honeycombed matrixes within bone gradually become thinner and rodlike, and the spaces between them grow larger. The bone thus becomes more porous and weaker. These lighter and more fragile bones tend to fracture from minor traumas and stresses that ordinarily would have no ill effects. Over time the minute fractures that occur in the vertebrae of the spine cause the back to curve, resulting in a humped back and bent posture. The bones of the hip and forearm are also especially vulnerable to fractures. The other symptoms of osteoporosis are loss of height and back pain.

      Bone mass reaches its peak during young adulthood. Then, after a period of stability, there is a slow but steady loss of bone beginning about age 40. Osteoporosis results from changes in the balance between the amount of new bone that is formed within the body and the amount of bone that is resorbed, or broken down and assimilated. In persons with osteoporosis, the rate of bone formation is normal, but bone resorption is accelerated, leading to a net loss of bone mass.

      Women are subject to several risk factors of osteoporosis. First, osteoporotic vulnerability is partly dependent on the bone mass originally present; persons with larger, denser bones can lose more bone without becoming prone to fractures than can persons who had lighter bones as young adults. Since men have heavier bones to begin with, their bones are still proportionally denser (and stronger) after the inevitable loss of bone mass due to aging. Second, women are subject to an accelerated rate of bone loss after they reach menopause, because of the lack of estrogen and other sex hormones. Other common risk factors of osteoporosis include a lack of calcium, an inactive lifestyle, a dietary imbalance between the amount of calcium and phosphorus ingested, cigarette smoking, and excessive consumption of alcohol. Osteoporosis also can result from endocrine and gastrointestinal disorders and from certain cancers (cancer).

      Estrogen replacement therapy may be used to prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women; however, it is typically used as a last resort when other medications prove ineffective. Medications such as calcitonin, raloxifene, risedronate, and alendronate may prevent osteoporosis. The latter three medications are also used to prevent further bone loss in the treatment of the disease. Treatment of osteoporosis also involves proper nutrition and exercise.

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Universalium. 2010.

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