Osteoporosis is a medical condition which can be summarized as the weakening of the bone tissue. This disease softens the bones hence they are susceptible to breakages. Other conditions such as osteopenia lower the strength of the bone structure but not to the degree of osteoporosis. The strength of the bone is derived from the protein collagen and the mineral calcium. There are two ways in which this disease can damage the bones, one of them is by cracking and the other is breaking up. Although osteoporosis can affect any bone of the body it is mainly concentrated on the bones of the hips, ribs, wrists and spine (Marcus, 2008)
Q1: Pathological process at work in people diagnosed with osteoporosis
Since osteoporosis is a disease that does not show any physical symptoms, one only realizes that they suffer from it when they get a fracture. There are many causes and factors that may predispose an individual to this disease. Females are at a greater risk to contract the disease than the males because males have a higher bone mass density (BMD), therefore they have stronger bones. Individuals of Asian or Caucasian race are also more likely than those of the black race (Marcus, 2008).
Poor absorption of vital nutrients is cited as one of factors that cause or worsen the disease itself. Calcium and phosphorous are the important minerals that are required in the formation of bones and maintenance of its strength. Absence or low levels due to poor absorption from the gastrointestinal tract may lead to this disease. Re-absorption of these two vital minerals from the bones to the body due to aging lowers the strength of the bone tissue which gives rise to very light bones that are likely to break even without external pressure.
Menopause is another factor that causes osteoporosis. This is a period in a woman’s life when she stops to produce the ova hence her fertility comes to an end. The levels of the hormone estrogen drops during menopause, therefore its role of maintaining bone density is lost. This is the most common cause of osteoporosis in females and is referred to as postmenopausal osteoporosis.
There are also other factors that lead to osteoporosis like low levels of testosterone in males, exposure to radiation e.g. chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer, overproduction of the thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).
Q2: How the disease process in osteoporosis represent an alteration of bone structure and function
The physical signs of osteoporosis may not be visible until an individual suffers a fracture. Pain is the major sign of osteoporosis and its locality points to the point of the fracture. Further more the symptoms of the disease are same across all genders. Vertebral fractures leads to acute pain that travels back and forth from the back of the body to the sides. Not only does the disease cause endless lower back pain but also reduces the height of the patient as a result of the crumpling of the vertebral column. The bending forwards of the backbone gives the patient a “dowager hump” or the loss of posture by the patient.
Bones may also break without the influence of an external force and are referred to as minimal trauma, or stress breakage. An example is developing fractures while walking or stepping from a raised level. Victims of osteoporosis take time to recuperate when they get fractures of the hip due to slow and poor healing of the bone.
Osteoporosis leads to the loss of productivity as one may not be able to perform their duties. Disability is also another result of the disease because the patient may be confined to the use of a wheelchair or crutches. 20 percent of women with fractures of the hip end up succumbing to death. Osteoporosis takes a toll on the health care system. In the United States alone, the direct cost of the disease runs into a billion dollars excluding indirect costs like loss of work days.