Osteoporosis

Frequency and causes

Osteoporosis (bone loss) is common and affects well over half a million people in Switzerland, with women much more prone to this condition than men.

The bone substance in healthy people is continuously “replenished” throughout their lives, as it is constantly being broken down and built up again to the same extent. If the breaking down process gets out of control or the building up process slows down, this results in osteoporosis. A poor diet, smoking, heavy alcohol consumption and a lack of physical activity are all factors, which increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. However, this can also be affected by influences which are beyond a person’s control (e.g. medication that has an adverse effect on bones, certain hormonal disorders, the changes to a woman’s hormone profile after menopause or, even a genetic predisposition to osteoporosis).

Consequences of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis patients have a weaker bone structure, making them more susceptible to bone fractures. Cases of bones breaking without having undergone any significant trauma are often the first indication of possible osteoporosis.

Diagnosing osteoporosis

Over a prolonged period, osteoporosis can lead to skeletal changes. Such changes (e.g. postural changes, changes to the spine, decreasing height) can give rise to the suspicion that a person is suffering from osteoporosis, but only specialist diagnostic investigations can provide reliable evidence of this. One of the most common methods used is bone density measurement (osteodensitometry), which uses a special X-ray examination process to determine the density of the bone.

Treatment options

There are some measures which can be taken to help prevent osteoporosis. These include ensuring a sufficient calcium and vitamin D intake, following a balanced diet with an adequate amount of protein, exercising regularly and avoiding risk factors such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Taking medication, which could have a harmful effect on bones, cannot always be avoided, but should be kept to a minimum. In some cases, hormonal prophylactic treatment can also be considered for women in the early stages of menopause.

For existing cases of osteoporosis, various medicinal and non-medicinal treatment options are available to help improve the situation. It is also important for patients to avoid falls and the associated risk of sustaining fractures as far as possible.