The bone disease osteoporosis accounts for nearly 9 million fractures worldwide each year. Osteoporosis caused as the result of another condition is called secondary osteoporosis.
Read on to find out more about secondary osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition of the bones that causes them to become weakened and brittle. People often think of bone as solid, but actually, the insides of your bones have small, honeycomb-like spaces. In people who have osteoporosis, the size of these spaces increases, causing less bone strength and density.
Osteoporosis can be either primary or secondary. Primary osteoporosis is generally age-related and caused by the effects of hormone changes in older adults, like low levels of certain sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. It occurs mainly in older individuals after menopause and when testosterone levels have dropped.
The loss of bone mass and strength that occurs with secondary osteoporosis is often due to the effects of certain health issues such as cancer, endocrine disorders, and others.
For most people, a fracture is the first sign or symptom of osteoporosis. This is because the loss of bone mass and strength tends to be gradual.
Fractures occur late in the course of the disease. Fractures are most often in the:
Late signs tied to spine compression fractures include:
- height loss
- kyphosis, or a stooped posture due to the upper back curving
- neck or back pain
Secondary osteoporosis may be caused by certain health conditions, drugs, or lifestyle factors. Common causes include health issues such as:
- chronic kidney disease
- celiac disease
chronic liver disease
- inflammatory bowel disease
- eating disorders
- bone-marrow-related disorders
- gastrointestinal disorders
- organ transplantation
In addition to health conditions, there are many other things that may affect your bones and lead to osteoporosis, such as:
Drugs that raise the risk of osteoporosis include:
- steroids such as:
- hormone treatments such as:
- thyroid hormone
- mood disorder treatments such as:
- seizure treatments such as:
- Drugs to prevent organ transplant rejection, such as:
- Other medications such as:
Lifestyle factors that raise your risk are:
- drinking too much alcohol
- low intake of vitamin D and calcium
Weight loss surgery
A 2021 review also links weight loss surgery with higher fracture risk. Of note, gastric bypass has been tied to more loss of bone mass.
To check for osteoporosis, your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. However, the primary test used to diagnose osteoporosis is a bone density test. Your doctor may also order blood tests to measure your levels of:
- vitamin D
- hormones such as estrogen and testosterone
Depending on what your doctor suspects to be at the root of the problem, other lab tests may also be performed, such as:
Treatments first tackle health issues that can be reversed. Other osteoporosis treatments and lifestyle changes will likely be part of your care plan as well.
The most common group of drugs used to treat bone loss are bisphosphonates such as:
- severe forms of the disease brought on by glucocorticoids
- cannot take bisphosphonates
Osteoporosis caused by cancers such as prostate cancer or other cancers that spread to the bone can be treated with the medication Prolia.
Natural treatments for osteoporosis may also support bone health but must be used with guidance from your doctor to make sure they‘re safe for you. That being said, a 2021 review points to the merits of plant compounds and extracts on bone health. These include:
- red clover
- kudzu root
- horny goat weed
- black cohosh
- red sage
Key steps have been shown to prevent bone loss and build and maintain bone mass. These steps include:
- engaging in routine weight-bearing exercise, such as lifting weights, using resistance bands, and walking
- eating foods rich in calcium, such as dairy products and dark leafy greens
- spending 15 minutes in the sun each day or eating foods such as egg yolks and fortified types of milk to up your intake of vitamin D
- quitting smoking or never starting
- avoiding drinking too much alcohol
Secondary osteoporosis can raise your risk of fractures and complications. Spine fractures can also lower your quality of life and cause impaired breathing, spine deformities, and nerve pain that persists.
The disease cannot be cured. But preventive measures and prompt and proper treatment can help:
- maintain your bone health
- slow down bone loss and breakdown
- support new bone growth
Secondary osteoporosis can be caused by certain health conditions, drugs, and lifestyle factors. Preventive measures and treatment options aim to avoid further bone loss and build and preserve bone mass and strength. These include measures such as:
- upping your intake of calcium and vitamin D
- quitting smoking or never starting
- not drinking to excess
- engaging in weight-bearing workouts
- taking medications that guard against the disease
There is no cure for osteoporosis, but it’s possible to slow the disease’s progression and grow new bone.