Managing Osteoporosis

How To Help Patients Manage Ostioperosis
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An Healthcare Worker Helping A Patient With Osteoperosis

Osteoporosis is the thinning and subsequent loss of density in bones, which makes them brittle, fragile, and more likely to break after minor trauma. Loss of height and back pain are common symptoms. Women are at special risk for osteoporosis after they experience menopause, as quicker bone loss occurs after reduced production of the hormone estrogen.

As medical office assistants, unit clerks, and pharmacy assistants, our graduates will be dealing with patients with osteoporosis on a regular basis. Here is what you need to know to help patients cope with the condition.

What Is Osteoporosis?

In healthy individuals, bone formation makes use of the minerals calcium and phosphate. If someone does not get enough calcium from their diet, bone production, and, subsequently, bone mass may suffer.

The main cause of osteoporosis is aging, which leads to a drop in estrogen in women at menopause and a drop in testosterone in men. These sex hormones block proteins that weakens bones. Other causes of osteoporosis include being underweight, a sedentary or inactive lifestyle, alcohol use, cigarette smoking, eating disorders, and long-term bed rest or immobilization. Taking certain drugs and some chronic diseases also have osteoporosis as a side-effect or symptom.

Symptoms of Osteoporosis

No symptoms may be obvious early in the condition’s development, but in time, low back and neck pain, stooped posture, and gradual loss of height may be seen. In some cases, the first sign is a fracture of the ribs, wrists, or hips. Vertebrae in the spine may collapse, becoming flattened or compressed, and break, which is the most common fracture experienced by those with the condition. Hip fractures can also occur, and they can cause the greatest long-term disability for those with the condition.

Diagnosis of Osteoporosis

A physician looking for symptoms of osteoperosis

In diagnosing a potential case of osteoporosis, a physician will review a patient’s medical history and perform a physical examination looking for age-related signs of a deformed spine. Physicians may order laboratory tests to measure a body’s calcium and vitamin D levels, or an x-ray examination called DEXA to measure bone density at important places, such as the spine and hip.

Screening for osteoporosis may be recommended for all woman after menopause and for men with risk factors such as long-term use of corticosteroids such as prednisone, which predisposes patients to osteoporosis.

Treatment of Osteoporosis

One of the most effective treatments of osteoporosis involves lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes may help reduce the risks of bone fractures. Such changes include doing regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises, stopping smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and ensuring patients are getting enough calcium ( at least 1200 mg/day) and vitamin D ( at least 800 IU/day) in their diet. Such treatment focuses on slowing down or stopping bone loss and on preventing bone fractures by minimizing the risks of falls.

Different drugs, including bisphosphonates such as alendronate, taken weekly may be prescribed in addition to adequate supplementation of calcium and vitamin D. There are several other medications also available at the discretion of pysicians.

DOs and DON’Ts of Managing Osteoporosis

  • DO regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises as suggested by your health care provider
  • DO make sure patients get enough calcium and vitamin D. They should eat a healthy diet that is rich in calcium-containing foods, such as dairy products, fish, beans, and green leafy vegetables.
  • DO take medications as prescribed.
  • DO discuss screening for osteoporosis with those in high-risk categories.
  • DON’T smoke
  • DON’T drink alcohol in excess.
  • Ferri F. Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2021. Providence, Rhode Island: Elsevier Canada; 2020.
  • Runge M, Machado C, Greganti M, Netter F. Netter’s Internal Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Saunders/Elsevier; 2009.
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