Osteoporosis is a very common lifestyle and age-related disease plaguing people all over the world in our times. This article enumerates the little-known causes of this medical condition.
Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bones’. In the people affected by this medical condition, there is a faulty mineralization of the bones, which cause the bones to become porous within, with a lot of embedded hollow-like spaces. This causes the bones to be more brittle than the bones of young people, and causes them to get fractured easily.
Bones require two essential minerals for their formation – they are calcium and phosphates. These minerals work within the bone to mineralize it and to keep it ‘alive’. However, in people where this mineralization cannot occur for some reason, or if it occurs only erratically, then the person is affected by this medical condition.
Osteoporosis-affected bones have more pronounced hollow spaces within them, which causes them to break more frequently and more easily. Such fractures happen in situations where healthy people would not normally get a fracture. This disease mostly affects the long bone femur, or the spine, or the wrist bones. However, the porosity of the bones happens throughout the body.
The Process of Bone Development
In order to understand why this disease occurs, we must first understand a process known as bone development.
Bones are not lifeless parts of the body. They are very much living (that is the reason why it pains terribly when a bone is hurt or fractured), and they are constantly re-growing. Just as the cells in the body die out and are replaced by new cells in a relentless manner, bones are also worn out and regrown. New bone is continuously replacing the old bone in the body, and these two processes – bone utilization and bone growth (also known as bone mineralization) are working simultaneously in the body.
When the body is young, the bone growth occurs at a quick pace, but the bone utilization is at a slow rate. This is the time when the bones get built up, like from infancy to adulthood. When the person reaches about 30 years of age, the bones are at their peak density. This is the time when the bones are considered to be mineralized completely, and they are growing at a much faster rate than they are declining.
After the thirties, a gradual deterioration begins to occur. The bones start declining at a rate faster than they mineralize. This occurs very slowly at first, but declines more and more sharply as the person’s age advances.
It is important to keep in mind that the amount of bone is not constant all through our living years. This is the crux of the development of this medical condition.
The causes can be grouped in three main categories as discussed below.
Loss of bone mass – Bone mass is lost rapidly after the thirties. In some groups of people, the loss of bone mass is much faster than its development. This is seen especially in women when they reach menopause. Estrogen is a very important hormone required for the development of bones in women (also androgen in men). But when the woman reaches menopause, there is a sharp decline in the amount of estrogen. This causes the bones to be malformed, and this medical condition sets in. This cause is not observed in men. That is the reason why it is more commonly observed in elderly women than in men.
Faulty mineralization of bone during younger years – Certain conditions might cause the bones to be formed faultily during childhood and early adolescence. This might happen when the body is deprived of the minerals calcium and phosphates, or if the body is deficient in Vitamin D, which is required to set the metabolism of bone formation into action. Such children would develop this medical condition when they grow older. Further, this cause is also seen in both men as well as women.
Bone loss due to disease – A lot of medical conditions can lead to the onset of this disease. Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia can be directly responsible, because they deprive the body of the requisite minerals. A host of other diseases can cause this medical condition as a secondary complication. Some of these diseases are Brown-Sequard syndrome, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Cushing’s Syndrome, certain kinds of anemia, kidney disease, Menkes disease, neuritis, prolactinoma, renal osteodystrophy, ulcerative colitis, and Werner syndrome. Being underweight can also cause this disease in the later years.
Genetic disposition and Age – This condition can be brought on in some people simply due to advancing age, when the bone mass density decreases. In some people with a family history of this disease, the chances of themselves getting the condition are quite high.
There are several factors that can contribute to an onset of this medical condition, and some of these can lend the classification of lifestyle disease to osteoporosis. The following are some of these risk factors:-
- Smoking is a risk factor because it thwarts the proper activity of the bone development process.
- Alcoholism in excess can cause this medical condition because it hampers with bone building. However, small amounts of alcohol are good for it.
- Most soft drinks are also responsible for this condition if consumed in excess, however, this point is debatable.
- People who are underweight or those who try to lose weight rapidly (through diet or otherwise) could develop chances of this medical condition.
- Exercise is necessary for the proper development and maturation of the bones. People leading a sedentary lifestyle can become victims of this condition.
- At the same time, over-exercising can cause damages in the bone structure, which in turn could lead to this medical condition.
- Some metals like cadmium impair the normal formation of the bone, which also leads to it.