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Osteoporosis is a disease in which interior bone becomes porous and weak due to a loss of density and mineral content. It occurs primarily when new bone is not made fast enough to replace old bone that is being broken down.

Throughout our lives, our bodies continuously produce new bone while simultaneously breaking down old. These processes occur at the same rate throughout childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. But by age 30, the process of bone breakdown surpasses the building of new bone. Thus aging is one of the prime risk factors for the development of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis study

We are currently recruiting patients to enroll in an NIH sponsored multicenter study titled, "INVEST (Investigational Vertebroplasty Efficacy and Safety Trial)."  This investigation is intended to provide evidence regarding the safety and effectiveness of percutaneous vertebroplasty in the treatment of osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures. To be eligible for the study, patients must:

  • Have osteoporosis or osteopenia,
  • Be over the age of 50, and
  • Have had a recent spine fracture. 

Warning signs

Osteoporosis can take years to develop, and usually occurs without any early warning signs. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Wrist, hip or back fractures
  • Loss of height
  • Sharp back pain
  • Curvature of the upper spine
  • Dental problems
  • Stress fractures in athletic, teenage girls

Risk factors

A number of factors can lead to the development of osteoporosis:

  • By age 30, our bodies no longer make bone as quickly as old bone is broken down.

  • Women are more likely than men to suffer from osteoporosis. Over age 50, 1 of every 2 women and 1 of every 8 men will develop the disease.

  • Thin women with smaller frames have less bone density and are more at risk of developing osteoporosis.

  • Osteoporosis can run in families.

  • White and Asian women are at higher risk than African American women.

  • Women going through menopause and those who have had their ovaries removed (Oophorectomy) are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis. This occurs because estrogen is produced primarily by the ovaries and also helps impede bone loss. Men who have had their testicles removed (Orchiectomy, as a treatment for prostate cancer) also are at higher risk of developing the disease. The male hormone testosterone is produced by the testicles.

  • In addition to residing in bone, calcium circulates in the bloodstream. vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. When both calcium blood levels and vitamin D are low, the body pulls calcium from bones, creating bone loss.

  • Inactivity promotes bone loss. Even a short brisk walk can help keep bones healthy.

  • Chemicals in cigarettes have been found to interfere with the body's production of estrogen.

  • While one or two alcoholic beverages are not harmful, heavy drinking can speed up bone loss.

  • Certain medical conditions can cause osteoporosis. Hyperparathyroidism, is one, in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone and "revs up" all of the body's systems, including the breakdown of bone. Other medical conditions include cancer, liver disease, anorexia nervosa and celiac disease, a sensitivity to gluten in the small intestine that causes a disruption in mineral absorption.

  • Long-term use of corticosteroids, anti-seizure medications and drugs that inhibit hormone production in both men and women can eventually cause osteoporosis.

  • Surgery of the gastrointestinal tract that causes a disruption in the absorption of calcium and minerals can lead to osteoporosis.