Osteoporosis causes bones to be porous and brittle, increasing their risk of breaking. It is the result of lower-than-normal bone mineral density, or bone mass. Bone mineral density refers to the amount of calcium, phosphorous, and other minerals concentrated in an area of bone.
Osteoporosis is painless and occurs most frequently in the hips, spine, and wrists. It is a progressive disease, meaning that without treatment more bone mass may be lost over time. Fortunately, osteoporosis is both preventable and treatable if caught early enough.
Osteoporosis is largely a disease of aging and is more likely to affect women. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D, and regular weight-bearing exercise can significantly reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis can make orthopedic surgeries more challenging. This is especially true for joint replacement surgeries, which require implanting joint prosthetics in patients’ bones. Osteoporosis can also increase the risk of future complications in a new joint, even after the patient has healed and recovered from surgery.
People with mild to moderate osteoporosis may be asked to undergo treatment before undergoing a joint replacement surgery. People with severe osteoporosis may be discouraged or prevented from having joint replacement surgery at all.
Osteoporosis can be diagnosed by measuring bone mineral density using a special type of low-radiation x-ray called a DEXA scan.