What to Look For
The most debilitating diseases are often the ones we don’t see coming, and osteoporosis is a sneaky one. In fact, osteoporosis is often called the silent killer because there are few warning signs, and the ones that do show up are sometimes so benign that they’re easy to overlook.
But knowledge is power, and knowing the signs, symptoms, and potential causes can prepare us and even help avoid osteoporosis altogether. (Yes, it can be done!)
Unfortunately, most people get diagnosed after they’ve had a fall and broken a bone. And it only gets worse from there. Statistics show that 13% of the population will die within six months of hip fracture.¹ Alarmingly, that number rises to 20% within two years after fracturing a hip.
No one wants to be a statistic. One way to avoid becoming another number is to be proactive and have your bone mineral density (BMD) checked by a doctor. The most accurate test to determine your BMD is the DEXA scan, a dual x-ray that measures the porousness of your bones.
DEXA scans can determine your bone strength and are an important tool in determining overall bone health. Depending on your results, your doctor may recommend anything from lifestyle changes to bone-building calcium supplements. Adding regular weight-bearing exercises like dancing, jogging and walking can make a big impact. Making changes like these, and others we’ll talk about later, can help reduce or eliminate the impact of osteoporosis.
Knowing what to look for is a huge part of early osteoporosis detection. While one symptom on its own may not be cause for concern, multiple symptoms may be a good indicator that it’s time to get in touch with your doctor.
There are, of course, genetic factors too. Women are more likely to get osteoporosis, as are older folks and people of Caucasian or Asian descent.² However, at least 2 million men in the United States have osteoporosis, too.³ Men and women who are shorter and have smaller bone structure have greater risk of the disease. And your chances of having osteoporosis are increased if a parent or sibling has it.
To see if it’s time to schedule your next DEXA scan, or simply to put your mind at ease, keep reading to learn more about osteoporosis signs and symptoms below.
- Hannan, E. L., Magaziner J., Wang, J. J., et al. (2001).Mortality and Locomotion 6 Months After Hospitalization for Hip Fracture: Risk Factors and Risk-Adjusted Hospital Outcomes. JAMA. 285(21), 2736–2742. doi:10.1001/jama.285.21.2736
- Cawthon, P. M. (2011). Gender differences in osteoporosis and fractures. Clinical orthopaedics and related research, 469(7), 1900–1905. doi:10.1007/s11999-011-1780-7
- Just for Men. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nof.org/preventing-fractures/general-facts/just-for-men/.
- Beattie, J. R., Cummins, N. M., Caraher, C., O'Driscoll, O. M., Bansal, A. T., Eastell, R., … Towler, M. R. (2016). Raman Spectroscopic Analysis of Fingernail Clippings Can Help Differentiate Between Postmenopausal Women Who Have and Have Not Suffered a Fracture. Clinical medicine insights. Arthritis and musculoskeletal disorders, 9, 109–116. doi:10.4137/CMAMD.S38493
- Hosseinimakarem, Z., Tavassoli, S. H. (2011). Analysis of human nails by laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy. J. Biomed. Opt. 16(5), 057002 doi:10.1117/1.3574757
- Ohgitani, S., Fujita, T., Fujii, Y., Hayashi, C. & Nishio, H. (2005). Nail calcium and magnesium content in relation to age and bone mineral density. J. Bone Miner. Metab. 23, 318–322 doi:10.1007/s00774-005-0606-7
- Pillay, I. et al. (2005). The Use of Fingernails as a Means of Assessing Bone Health: A Pilot Study. J. Women’s Heal. 14, 339–344 doi:10.1089/jwh.2005.14.339
- Towler, M. R. et al. (2007). Raman spectroscopy of the human nail: A potential tool for evaluating bone health? J. Mater. Sci. Mater. Med. 18, 759–763 doi:10.1007/s10856-006-0018-9
- Hochman, L. G., Scher, R. K., Meyerson, M. S. (1993). Brittle nails: response to daily biotin supplementation. Cutis. 51(4), 303–305. doi:10.1111/j.1473-2130.2004.00084.x
- Institute of Medicine (US) Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1997. 4, Calcium. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK109827/
- Oral Health and Bone Disease. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/oral-health/oral-health-and-bone-disease.
- Mulligan, R., Sobel, S. (2005). Osteoporosis: Diagnostic testing, interpretation, and correlations with oral health-implications for dentistry. Dent Clin North Am. 49, 463-84. doi:10.1016/j.cden.2004.10.005
- Mohammad, A. R., Hooper, D. A., Vermilyea, S. G., Mariotti, A., Preshaw, P.M. (2003). An investigation of the relationship between systemic bone density and clinical periodontal status in post-menopausal Asian-American women. Int Dent J. 53, 121-125.
- Dixon, W. G., Lunt, M., Pye, S. R., Reeve, J., Felsenberg, D., Silman, A.J., O'Neill, T.W.; European Prospective Osteoporosis Study Group. (2005). Low grip strength is associated with bone mineral density and vertebral fracture in women. Rheumatology, 44(5), 642–646. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/keh569
- Kritz-Silverstein, D., Barrett-Connor, E. (1994). Grip strength and bone mineral density in older women. J Bone Miner Res. 9(1), 45–51. doi:10.1002/jbmr.5650090107
- Heinonen, A., Kannus, P., Sievanen, H., et al. (1996). Randomised controlled trial of effect of high-impact exercise on selected risk factors for osteoporotic fractures. Lancet. 348(9038), 1343–1347. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(96)04214-6
- Russo, C. R. (2009). The effects of exercise on bone. Basic concepts and implications for the prevention of fractures. Clinical cases in mineral and bone metabolism: the official journal of the Italian Society of Osteoporosis, Mineral Metabolism, and Skeletal Diseases, 6(3), 223–228.
- Boden, S. (n.d.). Vertebral Fracture Symptoms. Retrieved from https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/osteoporosis/vertebral-fracture-symptoms.
- Lodh, M., Goswami, B., Mahajan, R.D., et al. (2015). Assessment of vitamin D status in patients of chronic low back pain of unknown etiology. Indian J Clin Biochem. 30, 174–9. doi:10.1007/s12291-014-0435-3
- Johnson, S. (2001). The multifaceted and widespread pathology of magnesium deficiency. Med. Hypotheses, 56, 163–170. doi:10.1054/mehy.2000.1133
- Wong, C. C., & McGirt, M. J. (2013). Vertebral compression fractures: a review of current management and multimodal therapy. Journal of multidisciplinary healthcare, 6, 205–214. doi:10.2147/JMDH.S31659