How Does Osteoporosis Affect the Body?

Osteoporosis Weakens Bones

Osteoprosis most often affects the bones in the hip, spine and wrist. When you have osteoporosis your bones lose density and strength. Bone is dynamic -- it responds to exercise and weight changes. To help illustrate what happens, picture a white lace ribbon. The lace represents the bone becoming porous. Throughout your life your body is constantly breaking down old bone and replacing it with new bone. If you have osteoporosis, bone is being broken down faster than it is being replaced. This can occur due to a lack of physical activity, not enough calcium in your diet, genetics, smoking or certain medications.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Fractures Can Occur

If osteoporosis is left untreated, your bones can break. Fractures can occur as the result of a fall or just by lifting something, sneezing, coughing or bending and twisting during everyday activities. The breaks can be severe and cause disability, as in the case of a hip fracture. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states that "about 24 percent of hip fracture patients over age 50 die within 12 months after injury because of complications related to the injury and the extended recovery period.” You may also experience spinal or vertebral fractures also called compression fractures 2. Compression fractures occur when the vertebrae in the spine collapse onto one another. This can lead to chronic back pain, loss of height, and the development of a dowager's hump. A dowager's hump means that you have a rounded upper back, occurring as bones in your spine collapse. This posture not only causes chronic pain, it can also compress your lungs and inhibit their ability to expand. This can lead to problems breathing.

Symptoms May Not Be Obvious

Bone loss may be gradual and painless, with no symptoms to indicate the development of osteoporosis. The disease may progress silently until a fracture or dowager's hump presents. A person with osteoporosis can lose up to 4 inches in height and may suffer severe chronic pain as the result of the curvature in the spine. Getting a bone density test is vital. Women who are in menopause are particularly vulnerable to osteoporosis -- bone density should be monitored regularly. With early diagnosis, lifestyle changes and medical treatments can help stop and even reverse bone loss.