Osteoporosis, the “Silent Killer” of the Foot

We have all heard of a family member or someone that we may know that has osteoporosis. It is hard enough to say the word, let alone know what it means. Osteoporosis affects over 50 million Americans and 50% of women and 25% of men in their lifetime.

Osteoporosis is a degenerative condition due to loss of bone mass. A simple way to look at bone mass in our body is to think back to when we were young. Children and young teens grow bone faster than their bodies resorb bone. As we become a young adult the process levels out and we reach peak bone mass. Unfortunately, as we age the process flips. The body cannot keep up with bone production and we lose bone mass faster than we create it. When this process is severe enough, the condition is classified as osteoporosis, which causes weakened bones.

Osteoporosis is often time called the “Silent Killer” because the condition progresses without any symptoms, or isn’t diagnosed until the person experiences pain from a fracture. Bone loss in the foot increases your risk for stress fractures. The effects on the foot can also lead to balance issues causing falls and injuries, not just in the foot and ankle. Often, the foot or ankle can become swollen and painful even without injury present.

Many factors play a role in the likelihood of developing osteoporosis some that’s out of your control and some that you can control.

Out of your control:

  • Gender: Women are more prone to osteoporosis then men
  • Age: Risks increase in women over 50 and over 70 in men
  • Body size: Petite women already have a decrease in bone mass placing them at risk for osteoporosis and stress fractures
  • Genetics: Osteoporosis is very common in families and future generations are at risk if family members have the condition

The ball is in your court:

  • Hormones: Low levels of estrogen in women and testosterone in men can decrease bone mass
  • Nutrition: Eating disorders and vitamin (Calcium and Vit D) deficiencies can contribute to osteoporosis
  • Excessive smoking and alcohol use
  • Activity Level: The old adage is true if you don’t use it, you lose it

If you are concerned you might have osteoporosis or if you are already showing symptoms a DEXA scan can be ordered to test your bone density. The findings from this test can aid in treatment and tell you the extent of the disorder. Treatment can range from supplements, exercising more, and proper shoe gear with extra shock absorption, offloading and support.

If you have an unexplained foot pain or if you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis don’t hesitate to call our office at (817) 656-0303. Prevention and minimizing symptoms of osteoporosis is critical to keep you on your feet to live a long and active life.

Watauga Podiatrist
Written by Dr. Daniel Cairns
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