Degenerative bone disease is fairly common and is known by the more common term osteoporosis 1. It can occur in both men and women, although it's more prevalent in women. Primarily, osteoporosis causes the bones to weaken and become brittle 1. Small impacts can cause fractures in those with the advanced form of this disease. However, treatments are available to help people live a more fulfilling and productive life.

Is This an Emergency?

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

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis or degenerative bone disease is an illness that causes the bones to lose their internal support structure, placing them at higher risk for fracture and breakage 1. A lack of calcium and vitamin D in your diet contributes to this condition as well as a sedentary lifestyle. It is natural to lose some bone as you age, but having a poor diet can contribute to more rapid bone loss later in life.

Who Is Most Likely to Get This Disease?

Anyone can develop osteoporosis, but there are some risk factors that increase your chances of developing it 1. For instance, if you are a woman, over the age of 35 and have a family history of bone disease, you're much more likely to develop the disease. Likewise, having a small build and using tobacco products can also contribute. Other factors include being of Asian or white descent, having an eating disorder or having used corticosteroids frequently.

What Symptoms Often Present Themselves?

Unfortunately, degenerative bone disease does not present with any symptoms in its early stages. However, as the disease progresses, you could notice that you've lost some of your height, that you suffer from back pain or that your bones fracture easily. Areas that are especially susceptible include the wrists, hips and spine. A rounded back or stooped posture is also a sign of this disease.

How is Osteoporosis Diagnosed?

Several tests are used to diagnose degenerative bone diseases. The primary method of testing is DEXA or dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. This can detect the density of your bones in the most susceptible areas. Sometimes, ultrasound or CT scans are also used to make a diagnosis.

What Are Treatments for This Disease?

Even though degenerative bone diseases can cause serious damage to your body, there are treatments for osteoporosis that can manage and even reverse the bone loss that makes fractures possible 1. One such treatment is called raloxifene or Evista, which is its brand name. This drug works very much like estrogen and is suitable only for female patients. It takes the place of estrogen in the body for women who have already gone through menopause, helping to boost bone production. Another type of treatment is Tamoxifen, a synthetic hormone primarily used in the treatment of breast cancer. For men, there are biphosphonates, which work to restore bone that's been lost due to excessive steroid use.