Get answers to your Osteoporosis, Metabolic Bone & Mineral Disorders questions.
Because the patterns of reforming and resorbing bone often vary from patient to patient, doctors believe several different factors account for this problem. Important chemicals (such as estrogen, testosterone, parathyroid hormone, and vitamin D) and blood factors that affect cell growth are involved with this process. Changes in levels of any of these factors can play a role in the development of osteoporosis.
Although normally associated with women, sex hormones play a role in osteoporosis in both genders, most likely by controlling the birth and duration of life of both osteoclasts (bone breakers) and osteoblasts (bone builders).
Women and Estrogen. A woman experiences a rapid decline in bone density after menopause, when her ovaries stop producing estrogen. Estrogen comes in several forms:
The ovaries produce most of the estrogen in the body, but it can also be formed in other tissues, such as the adrenal glands, body fat, skin, and muscle. After menopause, some amounts of estrogen continue to be manufactured in the adrenals and in peripheral body fat. Even though the adrenals and ovaries have stopped producing estrogens directly, they continue to be a source of the male hormone testosterone, which converts into estradiol.
Estrogen may have an impact on bone density in various ways, including preventing bone breakdown (resorption).
Men and Androgens and Estrogen. In men, the most important androgen (male hormone) is testosterone, which is produced in the testes. Other androgens are produced in the adrenal glands. Androgens are converted to estrogen in various parts of a manâ ' s body, including bone.
Studies have suggested that the loss of estrogen as well as testosterone may contribute to bone loss in elderly men. Both hormones appeared to be integral to bone function in men.
Low levels of vitamin D and high levels of parathyroid hormone (PTH) are associated with hip fracture in women after menopause:
Several studies on family members, including twins, have strongly suggested that genetic factors help determine bone density.
Corticosteroids. More than 30 million Americans use corticosteroid drugs (also called glucocorticoids or steroids) to treat disorders. Oral corticosteroids can reduce bone mass in both men and women. It is not clear whether inhaled steroids carry the same risks, but some studies indicate that they may cause bone loss when taken at higher doses for long periods of time. (Children on inhaled steroids may have temporary impaired growth, but they do not appear to be at risk for bone loss.)
Diuretics. Diuretics, which are used to treat high blood pressure, have different effects on osteoporosis, depending on the type. Loop diuretics, such as furosemide (Lasix), increase the kidneysâ ' excretion of calcium, which can lead to thinning bones. Thiazide diuretics, on the other hand, protect against bone loss, but this protective effect ends after use is discontinued.
Contraceptives. Hormonal contraceptives that use progestin without estrogen (such as Depo-Provera injection or other progestin-based contraceptives), can cause loss of bone density. For this reason, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that Depo-Provera injections should not be used for longer than 2 years. Some studies suggest that combination estrogen-progestin oral contraceptives increase the risk for osteoporosis later in life. Women who take birth control pills should be sure to get adequate calcium and vitamin D from diet or supplements.
Other Medications. Anti-epileptic (anti-seizure) drugs increase the risk for bone loss (as does epilepsy itself). Other drugs that increase the risk for bone loss include the blood-thinning drug heparin, and hormonal drugs that suppress estrogen (such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists and aromatase inhibitors). Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which are used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (heartburn), may also increase the risk for bone loss and hip fractures. These drugs include omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), and esomeprazole (Nexium).
Medical Conditions. Osteoporosis can be secondary to several other conditions, including alcoholism, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, epilepsy, chronic liver or kidney disease, Crohn's disease, celiac disease, scurvy, rheumatoid arthritis, leukemia, cirrhosis, gastrointestinal diseases, vitamin D deficiency, lymphoma, hyperparathyroidism, and rare genetic disorders such as Marfan and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
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Greenspan SL, Bone HG, Ettinger MP, Hanley DA, Lindsay R, Zanchetta JR, et al. Effect of recombinant human parathyroid hormone (1-84) on vertebral fracture and bone mineral density in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2007;146(5): 326-39.
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