09 Mar

Osteoporosis Facts & Treatment

Bones are the framework of our bodies, allowing us to stand, move and hold objects.  Our bones grow until our early twenties, and have a smooth outer surface with a weight reducing internal structure. Bones often have a hollow interior, and are filled with bone marrow.

Bone health starts early

Good bone health starts in childhood with a diet containing plenty of calcium and Vitamin D. 

Calcium can be found in dairy products, bony fish like sardines (where you can eat the fish bones), soya beans and some leafy green vegetables.

Vitamin D is found in fatty fish like salmon and eggs. Some foods like bread are actually fortified with Vitamin D. Vitamin D is also created in the skin, through exposure from sunlight. Sunscreen, clothing and the time of year can affect how much Vitamin D we create.

Facts

Bones maintain themselves in a lifelong process known as re-modelling, where bone is dissolved and laid down again as new bone.  This complex process allows old fractures to smooth over and the wear and tear of daily life to be repaired.  As we age, the balance between the dissolution of bone and the laying down of new bone is lost. Dissolution of old bone becomes dominant, and this can lead to osteoporosis. 

Women are more commonly affected by osteoporosis and at younger ages. At menopause, when production of the female hormone oestrogen production ceases, the strength of women’s bone starts to fall.  Osteoporosis is rare before middle age. Some medical conditions and medicines can cause osteoporosis earlier in life.  While bone density falls in older age, not everyone will go on and develop osteoporosis. 

Symptoms

Osteoporosis is often found when a knock or a minor fall leads to bone fracture. These are described as fragility fractures or low trauma fractures and often cause ongoing pain. 

The most visible sign of osteoporosis is a dowager’s hump, where changes the bones in the spine cause the spine to visibly bend, tilting the face forward towards the ground. 

New Zealand data projects that in 2020, osteoporosis will cause more than 115,000 fractures; of the spine (33%), rib (25%), forearm (14%) and hip (5%), with 60% of these fractures reported in women.

Treatment

Weight bearing exercise in later life help prevent osteoporosis. Exercises that prevent falls and the use of walking aids can reduce the risk of fracture. Vitamin D supplementation is important in women with darker skin, women who wear clothing that covers the entire body, and housebound and/or elderly people. When taken before menopause, calcium helps women with diets low in calcium to strengthen their bones before they enter menopause. 

Several prescription medicines are used to stabilise osteoporosis, they do not repair the bone but reduce the rate of bone dissolution.  Oral medicines like alendronate and risedronate are very poorly absorbed.  It is crucial that these medicines are taken at least 30 minutes before breakfast and washed down only with water.  To reduce the irritant effects of these medicines the person taking them must not lie down for at least 30 minutes.   

Other treatments are given by injection, some by self-injection, others need to be given by your doctor.  Adequate calcium and Vitamin D is required along with these treatments to optimise bone stability. 

Get your medicines from ZOOM

If you think you suffer from osteoporosis, talk to your doctor and ask for a DXA scan. Once you know you have osteoporosis, you can then do something about it.

ZOOM Pharmacy makes managing your meds really easy. Prescription meds are delivered direct to your door, repeats organised for you, no more queuing at pharmacy.

Call 0508966622 Monday to Friday 7AM-6PM to speak to a ZOOM Pharmacist and find out more about our great FREE medicines sachet pack service for patients on four meds or more!