Diseases of the Skeletal System

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones that causes them to be fragile, resulting in fractures.  The bones actually become thinner and less dense.  This is either due to the body not forming enough new bone, or too much bone being reabsorbed into the body, or both.  Osteoporosis is more common in women than men and tends to develop after menopause.

Cause: There are many causes of osteoporosis.  Two of them are not having enough calcium in one’s diet and eating too much protein, which causes calcium from bones to be released into the urine.  Overactive parathyroid glands and medications like steroids and glucocorticoids can also cause calcium to be released from bones. Osteoporosis is also more common in post-menopausal women who are not on estrogen-replacement therapy. This is because the hormone estrogen normally inhibits the osteoclast cells that are responsible for breaking down bones. 

Symptoms: Early on there are no symptoms of osteoporosis, but over time some people develop neck or back pain, bone pain, a hunched stature, and may even shrink in height due to the degradation of bones in the spine.

Treatment: Treatment for osteoporosis focuses on controlling pain, slowing bone loss, preventing fractures, and taking care to avoid falls that might cause fractures.  Treatments include regular exercise or a change in diet to eat more calcium and vitamin D.  Medications can also be used to strengthen bones and prevent bone loss.

Arthritis

Arthritis is a collective term for the more than 100 diseases that cause damage to the joints of the body.  Osteoarthritis can occur due to trauma or age-related wear and tear on joints.  Other types of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, are caused by an autoimmune response that occurs when one’s own immune system mistakenly attacks the joints.

Cause: Age, wear and tear, obesity, injury, and infection can all lead to arthritis.  Some people are even genetically predisposed to arthritis.

Symptoms: Arthritis can cause pain, inflammation, reduced mobility, and stiff joints.

Treatment: Treatment for arthritis focuses on reducing pain, preventing further damage to joints, and improving joint function. Treatments include lifestyle changes such as mild exercise and physical therapy.  Drugs can be used to reduce pain, inflammation and swelling.