CHAPTER 23 Women’s Health Issues
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones have decreased density and altered structure; the weakened bones are prone to fractures. Osteoporosis is considered a silent disease because bone loss itself is gradual and painless. There are usually no symptoms until the bones weaken to the point of fracture.
The incidence of osteoporosis increases with age and is more common among individuals with slender frames, such as Asians and Scandinavians. Africans and African Americans genetically have denser bones and it takes longer for denser bone mass to decrease to the level of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can occur at any age, in all ethnic groups, and in both sexes, although it is much more common in women. Because vitamin D and calcium are essential for healthy bones, malnourished individuals, including those with eating disorders, may develop osteoporosis.
The early stages of bone loss are often not accompanied by any symptoms. Once bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, signs and symptoms may include back pain, which can be severe if a vertebra has fractured or collapsed; loss of height with an accompanying stooped posture; and fractures (commonly wrists, hips, or vertebrae). Although some fractures (such as in the wrist or hip) are obvious, spinal fractures can be more difficult to diagnose. Spinal fractures may be painless; even if pain occurs from a vertebral fracture, it might be attributed to another cause besides a fracture. More obvious signs of spinal fractures are reduced height and kyphosis, which is the curved upper spine that is sometimes called a “dowager’s hump.”
|Osteopenia||−1 to −2.5|