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Learn about the importance of bone health on World Osteoporosis Day

Today is World Osteoporosis Day, a time to bring awareness to a disease that affects about 54 million Americans. Studies suggest that approximately one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

To better understand osteoporosis, Livin’ Upstate and Your Carolina sat down with Dr. Long Huynh-Duc of Piedmont Arthritis Clinic in Greenville, SC to discuss its cause, symptoms and treatment options.

What is osteoporosis and what are the first signs or symptoms?

Let’s break down the word first. “Osteo” means bone, “porous” means pores/holes, “osis” means a condition or state, usually abnormal or diseased.

So, osteoporosis is when your bones become brittle and fragile and are more likely to break due to falls. There are really no symptoms since it’s considered a silent disease. A bone that breaks much more easily than expected typically is a first sign of the disease.

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Osteoporosis is responsible for two million broken bones and $19 billion in related costs every year. By 2025, experts predict that osteoporosis will be responsible for approximately three million fractures and $25.3 billion in costs annually.

What causes osteoporosis?

There are many health problems, as well as certain medications that can cause osteoporosis. Medical problems include autoimmune disorders, cancers, GI disorders and endocrine disorders. Medications that can lead to osteoporosis include tamoxifen and steroids.

How do you treat osteoporosis? Is it curable?

There’s no cure for osteoporosis but there is treatment. It first needs to be identified and diagnosed correctly. Your doctor can get you set up for a bone density test. There are many drugs that can be used to treat osteoporosis and slow down further bone loss. Keep in mind, these drugs don’t make you invincible. They help lessen your chance of breaking a bone due to a fall.

What is the difference between osteoporosis and osteoarthritis?

Osteoporosis is what we have explained. With osteoarthritis, you lose cartilage between the joints and then the bones start to grind on each other. With osteoarthritis, you do have inflammation and pain.

What are the risks if we don’t identify it or seek treatment?

Breaking a bone is a serious complication of osteoporosis, especially with older patients. Osteoporotic bone breaks are most likely to occur in the hip, spine or wrist, but other bones can break too. In addition to causing permanent pain, osteoporosis causes some patients to lose height. When osteoporosis affects vertebrae, or the bones of the spine, it often leads to a stooped or hunched posture.

Osteoporosis may limit mobility, which often leads to feelings of isolation or depression. Additionally, 20 percent of seniors who break a hip die within one year from complications related to the broken bone itself or the surgery to repair it. Many patients require long-term nursing home care.

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