What is Osteopenia?
Osteopenia is bone density that is below normal but not as low as osteoporosis (a condition where bones become so weak that they can break as a result of minor injury or even everyday activity). Bone density is a measurement of how dense and strong the bones are as compared to a normal peak density. Although osteopenia is not as serious as osteoporosis, having osteopenia means there is a greater risk that, as time passes, you may develop osteoporosis. Osteopenia can lead to bone fragility and increased chance of fracture.
Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care for patients with orthopedic conditions and the diagnosis, treatment and management of osteopenia pain. You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health.
Osteopenia usually has no symptoms and is frequently not detected unless a person:
- Has a bone density test
- Experiences localized bone pain and weakness in an area of a broken bone (osteopenia pain)
If osteopenia is suspected, we perform a physical examination and ask questions about symptoms. We then use advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, determine treatment and carefully monitor the condition. Common diagnostic procedures can include a bone density test known as:
Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA): This imaging test measures bone density in the spine, hip or total body using a photon beam.
The DEXA bone density test will give a provider the measurement of your bone density which shows if you meet osteopenia standards. Bone density tests are commonly recommended for postmenopausal women and women 65 years old or older.
Preventable causes of osteopenia can include:
- Regular soda consumption
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Lack of physical activity
- Calcium and vitamin D deficiency
- An eating disorder
- To a lesser extent, certain medications such as prednisone, prednisolone, and phenytoin (an anti-epileptic drug) have been associated with osteopenia
Risk factors that can contribute to osteopenia include:
Gender: Most people affected by osteopenia are women. Postmenopausal women are at increased risk due to decreased levels of the hormone estrogen
Race: Caucasians and those of Asian descent, especially those who are small-boned, are at higher risk for developing osteopenia.
Age: Most people (men and women) lose about half a percent of bone mass every year after the age of 50.
Genetics: A family history of early bone loss and osteoporosis puts one at higher risk of osteopenia.
Chronic Inflammation: Those with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease are at higher risk of weakened bones.
While many risk factors cannot be controlled, you can help prevent osteopenia and osteopenia pain in these ways:
Eating a Healthy Diet: Adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, K and C, as well as other minerals, is key. Good sources of calcium include milk and other dairy products and green vegetables. Vitamin D can be found in eggs, salmon and sardines. The body also makes vitamin D naturally in response to sun exposure.
Taking Supplements: A calcium supplement, which is often combined with vitamin D, helps the body absorb calcium and other minerals more efficiently.
Increasing Physical Activity: Walking three to five miles a week can often improve bone density in the hip and spine. Weight bearing exercise with light weights or elastic bands can strengthen the bones in the upper body.
The prognosis for people with osteopenia is good if diet and exercise recommendations are followed. Bone density can be stabilized and fracture risk further minimized with supplements and medications.
The main treatments for osteopenia are:
Weight-bearing and strengthening exercise not only stimulates stronger bones, it also helps in fall prevention.
In addition to over-the-counter supplements, a physician may prescribe a prescription medication to prevent further prevent bone mass loss. Not every person requires additional prescription medication to treat their osteopenia pain.
Complications of osteopenia may include increased risk of further bone deterioration (osteoporosis) or bone fracture.
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