Osteoporosis is typically considered a "woman's disease," but 2 million of those with the disease are men. In fact, about 30 percent of hip fractures occur in men, and one in eight men over 50 years of age will experience an osteoporotic fracture.
Today, we know much more about diagnosing, preventing and treating osteoporosis as well as the condition's resulting complications. In addition to estrogen, other medications are available to control the disease.
New medications and other treatments have changed the way we look at osteoporosis, the bone degeneration usually associated with the aging process. Osteoporosis affects an estimated 10 million people and almost 34 million have low bone mass, putting them at increased risk for developing osteoporosis.
Our specialists at UCSF Medical Center can choose the best treatments for your individual needs. Equipped with a state-of-the-art digital scanner for spine, hip and wrist scans as well as an ultrasound scanner for heel bone measurements, we can diagnose osteoporosis in its early stages and determine your risk of eventual fracture.
For treatment, you may be referred to an endocrinologist, orthopedic specialist or rheumatologist, depending on your condition.
Our researchers have been working for more than 15 years to discover risk factors for fracture and test new diagnostic equipment and treatments, many of which are now part of the standard arsenal for managing osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis means "porous bones." If you have osteoporosis, your bones don't look any different, but they lose substance as well as calcium and other minerals. As a result, your bones have less strength and are more likely to fracture, particularly if you fall.
The most common osteoporosis fractures resulting from falls are in your wrist or hip. You are much more likely to have compression fractures in your vertebrae, the bones in your spine. A compression fracture is the result of the weakened bone cracking from the normal pressure of being upright. This often results in the curvature of the spine at the shoulders in older people sometimes called a "widow's hump."
The appearance of a widow's hump or a fractured wrist or hip from a fall may be the first actual symptoms of osteoporosis unless your doctor has been measuring your bone density. Men also should watch for a loss of height, change in posture or sudden back pain. There are a number of risk factors that increase a person's likelihood of having osteoporosis.
The single best predictor of bone strength is bone density. Bone density cannot be determined from plain X-rays, but a specialized low-dose X-ray technique called bone densitometry can be used to measure the amount of bone present in different parts of the skeleton. Research over the past decade has shown conclusively that bone density is related to risk of fracture, in much the same way that blood cholesterol is related to the risk of heart disease. The lower the bone density, the greater the risk of fractures due to osteoporosis.
Take our quiz to find out if you are a good candidate for a bone density test. If you answer "yes" to one or more of these questions, talk to your doctor about getting a bone density test.
Your bone density test will tell your doctor if your bone density is normal, osteopenic (low bone mass) or osteoporotic. Based on these results and your risk factors for fracture, you and your doctor may select among the following treatment options.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.