Osteoporosis is a condition that afflicts millions of people around the world, and not just the elderly. Young people can suffer from osteoporosis, which the Mayo Clinic defines as porous bones. Such brittle bones encourage fractures and limited mobility in anyone diagnosed with the disease. Understanding the effects osteoporosis can have on the body will certainly encourage people to take steps to prevent it.
Effect on Bones
Osteoporosis weakens the body's bones and joints. These fractures are caused by thinning of bone mass. Osteoporosis eats away at the spongy interior of bone, called the trabecular bone mass. The condition can get so bad that a person is limited in movement and activities. A fall, a hard bump into something or even lifting an object might result in a bone fracture. The most common sites for fractures are in the spine, wrists and hip, though many people trying to break falls also fracture elbows, shoulders and knees.
Another common effect of osteoporosis on the body is chronic pain, sometimes so severe it's disabling. Pain is often caused by compression on the vertebrae, pressing bone against bones against other bones, as well as nerves and surrounding tissue. These effects may also be felt in the hip, knee, shoulder and wrist joints.
In some individuals, osteoporosis can cause the spinal column to bend forward (called a Dowager's hump) and contribute to overall loss of height. The effects of compression fractures in the spine often lead to distortions of the spinal column, creating a stooped appearance.
Compression of Internal Organs
As the spine develops abnormal curves, some individuals experiencing severe curvature of the spine may also suffer from difficulty breathing and pain in the abdomen as internal organs are also compressed. Lack of back support caused by curvature of the spine results in the rib cage sinking lower into the soft tissues of the abdomen and cramping internal organs such as the lungs, stomach and intestines.
Osteoporosis is progressive, which means that bones continue to weaken and thin if steps are not taken to slow reduction of bone mass. Osteoporosis is mainly caused by a lack of adequate intake of calcium, a mineral that contributes to bone strength and health. Additional risks increase with ethnicity (Asian and Caucasian women are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than other demographic groups), sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and family history of the disease. Osteoporosis is also commonly found in women who have gone through menopause and experience a decrease in the hormone estrogen, which also helps contribute to strong and healthy bone growth.