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Osteoporosis is a common and progressive bone disease that weakens bones and makes them prone to breakage. It results from a loss of bone density, or mass, and from a change in bone structure. There are several risk factors for developing osteoporosis including older age, small bone structure, family history of osteoporosis, cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, and low calcium and vitamin D levels. Osteoporosis occurs most commonly in older women, but it can affect any person at any age. Osteoporosis does not cause obvious symptoms but may result in broken bones, limited mobility, and chronic disability.
Clinicians diagnose osteoporosis based on results from a test that measures bone mineral density. This test measures the amount of bone at different areas of the body. Measurements are usually taken at the spine, hip, and thigh. The best available test for measuring bone mineral density is called the dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan. This test is painless and uses much less radiation than traditional X-ray.
Osteoporosis treatment includes a healthy diet or supplements to ensure that patients are getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Health care providers also recommend regular physical activity, specifically weight-bearing exercise, as it has been shown to improve bone density and preserve remaining bone. Some people with osteoporosis may require medications, such as bisphosphonates, calcitonin, and estrogen or hormone replacement therapy.