Osteoporosis (OSS-tee-o-pore-O-sis) is a disease where the bones become soft and weak. According to the American Medical Association, post-menopausal women may be affected by osteoporosis, although the disease may also strike men. The disease in women is associated with decreased production of estrogen, the female hormone that helps keep calcium in the bones. Estrogen levels are drastically reduced when a woman goes through menopause or has her ovaries surgically removed.
Osteoporosis may have no symptoms or cause pain. The pain is usually located in the back, ribs, or limbs. As the disease progresses, there is a loss of height due to a compression of the vertebrae, as well as an increased curvature of the spine, often called a “widow’s hump.” The risk of fractures also increases.
Fortunately, many of the treatment measures for osteoporosis can be taken throughout life to help build strong, healthy bones. For example, a balanced diet rich in vitamin D and calcium and a regular exercise program can help prevent bone loss. It is difficult to reverse the damage once you have osteoporosis. Your doctor may recommend estrogen replacement therapy or calcium supplements. It is especially important to minimize the risk of falling if your bones are already fragile. Make sure the stairways in your home have railings and your home is adequately lighted. You should also avoid lifting heavy objects.