Osteoporosis is characterized by thinning bones—which often lead to fractures along the hips, back, and neck. However, those are only part of the problems that come along with osteoporosis. If you've been recently diagnosed with osteoporosis, learn more about the long-term dangers of this common condition and how they can be mitigated.
What are the long-term dangers of osteoporosis?
You already know that osteoporosis can lead to broken bones, but you may not realize what happens after those bones break. Statistically, 1 in 6 women who go to the hospital after a hip fracture won't survive (and it's worse for men).
The problem for many is that the broken bones can lead to inactivity, particularly if they're in the hip or spine. Hip breaks can take months of recovery and physical therapy to heal, and spinal compression fractures can lead to life-long numbness, pain, and weakness in your back, limbs, hands, and feet. Eventually, the combination of symptoms can cause you to become physically weaker. As you become weaker, you become more susceptible to infections and other chronic problems and can even become bedridden.
How can you mitigate the progression of the disease?
You can mitigate the amount of damage that osteoporosis does to your body by being especially proactive. Lifestyle changes, like adding any sort of weight-bearing exercise (like walking, swimming, and weightlifting) to your daily routine and quitting smoking can help slow the progression of osteoporosis.
In addition, there are medications that can increase your bone density over time. Bisphosphonate therapy, which includes drugs like Fosamax and Reclast, is widely used. Estrogen therapy is also useful, as long as you aren't at risk for certain complications, like blood clots.
How can you mitigate the overall symptoms?
If you are suffering from the after-effects of broken bones, it's important to seek treatment that will help you control the symptoms that could keep you inactive. Physical therapy, including aqua therapy, is something you should consider in order to get moving again as quickly as possible.
If you're suffering from chronic pain and neuropathic weakness due to spinal compressions, you may need to seek more aggressive treatment. Pain management clinics often assist with the treatment of patients with osteoporosis-related fractures of the spine. Non-invasive treatments include things like opiates and minimally invasive treatments include things like cortisol injections and epidurals.
What are the next steps you should take?
Once you've had time to learn more about your condition, make a list of questions that you want to ask your healthcare provider. In particular, if you're experiencing pain in any particular area around your joints or in your back, you want to bring it to your doctor's attention. It may be time for x-rays in order to look for any small, undiagnosed fractures that have already occurred. If you already know that you are suffering from fractures, it may be time to seek a referral for more aggressive treatment. If you're diagnosed with spinal compression fractures, contact a doctor at a medical center like Southwest Florida Neurosurgical Associates for advice and treatment.