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Osteoporosis Awareness is Key for Bone Health

Primary Care Physicians Help Detect and Treat Osteoporosis Early On

DAYTON, Ohio (June 28, 2011) – Summer is here and physical activity is at an all-time high as people enjoy the warmer weather. With increased activity comes the greater risk of falls and fractures due to osteoporosis. A recent report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that inactivity steadily increases as people get older, which can lead to bone and muscle loss, increasing a person’s risk of falling. Osteoporosis is a silent disease—most people don’t even realize they have it until they actually experience a fracture.

“It’s common for people to confuse osteoporosis with osteoarthritis, thinking the condition is painful and they’ll be able to feel the symptoms,” said Dr. Maria Thomas-John, rheumatologist at Premier Arthritis and Osteoporosis Center. “Most osteoporosis sufferers won’t even know they have the disease until they are screened or experience a fracture.”

The disease causes thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time and is most commonly found in post-menopausal females—women ages 65 and older. Thin, Caucasian or Asian females are also more prone to developing osteoporosis. While bone mineral density tends to be higher in African American women than in white women, they are still at considerable risk of developing osteoporosis. A number of other factors can also increase a woman’s risk of developing osteoporosis, including smoking and alcoholism, previous diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid diseases, the use of medications or conditions that might possess bone-deteriorating side effects. To test patients for osteoporosis, physicians use DEXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) scans, which are x-rays used to measure bone mineral density.

“Women should talk with their primary care physician after menopause about whether or not they should be screened,” said Thomas-John. “All women age 65 and older should have a routine bone mineral density test, but some women with risk factors may need to be screened sooner. Screening is easy and painless, and can be the key to early diagnosis.”

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 10 million Americans currently suffer from osteoporosis and about half of all women will experience a fracture as a result of thin or weak bones. Osteoporatic fractures occur in the hip, wrist or spine and can eventually lead to bigger problems, such as pain and difficulty performing everyday tasks. Early detection and diagnosis of osteoporosis may help prevent these kinds of fractures.

As research continues and new treatments are developed, a number of factors need to be considered when choosing the appropriate osteoporosis treatment. These include the age, gender, other health problems and current medications. Primary care physicians can evaluate these factors and help determine the best course of action for each patient.

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