Osteopenia


Osteopenia

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Reduced bone mass due to inadequate osteoid synthesis.

Osteopenia is a densitometric term defined by a T-score between -1 and -2.5. Values of T-score superior to that are considered normal while those inferior to that define osteoporosis. Prevalence of osteopenia has been estimated by very few studies. In women from 20 to 44 years, it is estimated to be 13.1% in the lumbar spine and 17.9% in the femoral neck, numbers that increase progressively to 50% and 31.1% respectively in women aged 60 to 69 years. In more recent studies, similar estimates have been obtained.

Bones naturally become thinner as people grow older because, beginning in middle age, existing bone cells are reabsorbed by the body faster than new bone is made. As this occurs, the bones lose minerals, heaviness (mass), and structure, making them weaker and increasing their risk of breaking. All people begin losing bone mass after they reach peak BMD (bone mineral density) at about 30 years of age. The thicker your bones are at about age 30, the longer it takes to develop osteopenia or osteoporosis.

Some people who have osteopenia may not have bone loss. They may just naturally have a lower bone density. Osteopenia may also be the result of a wide variety of other conditions, disease processes, or treatments. Women are far more likely to develop osteopenia and osteoporosis than men. This is because women have a lower peak BMD and because the loss of bone mass speeds up as hormonal changes take place at the time of menopause.

Causes and Risk Factors:

    Having certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or other rheumatic diseases can cause osteopenia.

  • Having a family history of osteoporosis, being thin, being white or Asian, getting limited physical activity, smoking, regularly drinking cola drinks, and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol also increase the risk of osteopenia and, eventually, osteoporosis.

  • Metabolism problems that do not allow the body to take in and use enough vitamins and minerals.

  • Chemotherapy or medicines such as steroids used to treat a number of conditions, including asthma.

  • Exposure to radiation.

Symptoms:

Osteopenia has no symptoms. You notice no pain or change as the bone becomes thinner, although the risk of breaking a bone increases as the bone becomes less dense. Some older people may notice they are getting slightly shorter or have a hunched-over posture.

Diagnosis:

Osteopenia is diagnosed with a BMD test. The most accurate test of BMD is dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), although there are other methods. DEXA is a form of X-ray that can detect as little as 2% of bone loss per year. A standard X-ray is not useful in diagnosing osteopenia, because it is not sensitive enough to detect small amounts of bone loss or minor changes in bone density.

Treatment:

Osteopenia is treated by taking steps to keep it from progressing to osteoporosis and, for a few people, by taking medicine. Lifestyle changes can help reduce the bone loss that leads to osteopenia.

What you eat is very important to bone development. Calcium is the most critical mineral for bone mass. Your best sources of calcium are milk and other dairy products, green vegetables, and calcium-enriched products.

When medical therapy is pursued, treatment includes medications with a range of actions. Commonly used drugs are bisphosphonates including alendronate, risedronate, and ibandronate; selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) such as raloxifene; estrogen; calcitonin; and teriparatide. Discuss risks and benefits of medications before taking any medications with your doctor.

Exercise is important for having strong bones, because bone forms in response to stress. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, hiking, and dancing are all good choices. Adding exercise with light weights or elastic bands can help the bones in the upper body. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about starting an exercise program.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.

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