Causes of Postmenopausal Osteoporosis and Treatment

A high percentage of women are at risk of developing postmenopausal osteoporosis. This is why they must supplement their diet with calcium, exercise frequently, and skip smoking. What else is there to know about it?
Causes of Postmenopausal Osteoporosis and Treatment

Last update: 02 March, 2021

The main characteristic of postmenopausal osteoporosis is porous, weak bones – just like in all related conditions. This one is common in women who’ve gone through menopause and is due to hormonal changes — hence the name.

Estimates indicate that a large percent of women will experience a fracture due to postmenopausal osteoporosis. This figure gives an idea of the impact of this disease on women’s health. This is because a fracture can significantly impair quality of life and brings about many additional risks.

The word osteoporosis literally means “porous bones.” One of the greatest difficulties of postmenopausal osteoporosis is that it doesn’t cause any symptoms most of the time. At least not until there’s a painful fracture. Also, one bone fracture increases the risk of another.

Description of postmenopausal osteoporosis

A doctor talking to a patient.
Postmenopausal osteoporosis is the decrease in bone mass due to hormonal changes in women after menopause.

Postmenopausal osteoporosis is a bone disease, the main characteristic of which is a decrease in bone mass. In addition, it implies an alteration in bone microstructure. All this, together, makes those who have this problem highly vulnerable to fractures.

There’s decreased bone resistance in osteoporosis, and bone density and quality are required for there to be resistance. Density depends on the quantity of bone mass and quality has to do with the integrity of the bone structure. The impairment in both factors is what causes osteoporosis.

According to estimates, three out of every 1,000 women over the age of 50 experience a femur fracture each year due to this condition. In addition, fractures of the forearm are almost twice as high. You may not be aware of it but the presence of a fracture significantly increases the risk of mortality in these women.

The absence of symptoms and their management

As we mentioned above, postmenopausal osteoporosis, and all osteoporosis in general, are asymptomatic. They only become visible after a fracture, usually in the proximal femur, the spine, and the distal forearm.

The only way to diagnose osteoporosis before it causes fractures is bone mineral density (BMD) testing. These are x-ray tests that establish bone density.

Results that indicate osteoporosis allow early preventive treatment. It doesn’t eliminate the risks, but does reduce them to a manageable margin.

Causes of the disease

A doctor examining a patient.
Bones tend to become porous with aging and low estrogen levels play a role in this loss in women.

Under normal conditions, a person builds more bone tissue than they lose until about the age of 30. Then, after that age, at around 35, the opposite happens, and you lose more bone tissue than you create. This leads to a gradual loss of bone mass. Osteoporosis happens when this process reaches a certain point.

Researchers already established the direct relationship between menopause and osteoporosis. Hence, the process of bone tissue destruction accelerates when menopause begins. Everything indicates that low hormone levels, estrogen, in particular, facilitate the development of postmenopausal osteoporosis.

Treatment for postmenopausal osteoporosis

Until recently, hormone replacement therapy was the usual treatment to prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis. However, several studies revealed that its effectiveness was limited and that it also increased the risk of breast cancer, stroke, and venous thromboembolism.

Currently, in principle, there’s non-pharmacological therapy available to prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis. It consists of a diet that includes a satisfying level of calories, calcium, and vitamin D. Also, doctors highly recommend calcium supplements. Frequent exercise and giving up smoking are also a must.

All postmenopausal women should take the above measures. Pharmacological therapy is usually early for those with a high risk of osteoporosis. This includes bisphosphonates, alendronate, risedronate, raloxifene, and calcitonin, as appropriate.

A treatment based on parathyroid hormone, which has already been successfully tested, is expected to be available in the short term. Finally, a treatment with strontium salts, which shows great promise, is currently undergoing testing.

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Most people are exposed to bone problems. However, there are determining factors that increase the risk of osteoporosis. Let's check them out.

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