Osteoporosis is a skeletal disease in which bones become brittle and prone to fracture. In other words, the bone loses density. Osteoporosis is diagnosed when bone density has decreased to the point where fractures occur with mild stress.
Many people confuse osteoporosis with arthritis and believe they can wait for symptoms such as swelling and joint pain to occur before seeing a doctor. However, the mechanisms that cause arthritis are entirely different from those in osteoporosis. Osteoporosis usually becomes quite advanced before symptoms appear.
All too often, osteoporosis becomes apparent in dramatic fashion: A fracture of a vertebra (backbone), hip, forearm, or any bony site if sufficient bone mass is lost. These fractures frequently occur after apparently minor trauma, such as bending over, lifting, jumping, or falling from the standing position.
Pain, disfigurement, and debilitation are common in the latter stages of the disease. Early spinal compression fractures may go undetected for a long time, but after a large percentage of calcium has been lost, the vertebrae in the spine start to collapse, gradually causing a stooped posture calledkyphosis, or a “dowager ‘ s hump.” Although this is usually painless, patients may lose as much as 6 inches in height.