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A Closer Look at Osteoporosis from an Endocrinologists Perspective


May was National Osteoporosis Month, but it’s important that the conversation about this condition doesn’t stop there! Forming healthy habits when you’re younger can actually help prevent or lessen the severity of osteoporosis as you age. Crystal Run Healthcare Endocrinologist, Ila Khanna, MD, answers important questions about Osteoporosis to help people learn more about the disease, treatment options, and how to prevent it.

What is Osteoporosis?

  • Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder where bones become porous, brittle and prone to fracture.  It is the most common bone disease in humans affecting more than 200 million persons worldwide.
  • Osteoporosis currently affects approximately 10 million people in the United States and is projected to affect more than 14 million people by 2020 as the aging population grows.
  • Osteoporosis can occur at any age but it is more common in older adults, especially postmenopausal women.  About one out of every two Caucasian postmenopausal women will experience an osteoporosis related fracture in her lifetime and the risk in men is about one in five.

What are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?

  • It is an asymptomatic condition, which means the disease does not outwardly present symptoms, but it increases a person’s risk of fracture.  It often remains undiagnosed until a person suffers from a low trauma fracture of the hip, spine, or the wrist.  
  • Some important risk factors for developing osteoporosis include:
    •  Early menopause
    • Family history of osteoporosis
    • Long term treatment with corticosteroids
    • Low body weight
    • Fracture after age 50
    • Smoking history
    • Calcium or Vitamin D deficiency
    • Inadequate physical activity
  • You should consider getting tested for Osteoporosis if:
    • An X-ray of your spine shows a fracture or bone loss
    • You suffer from chronic thoracic back pain which could be due to a fracture
    • You have experienced height loss of ½ inch or more within one year or a total height loss of 1 ½ inches from your original height

How do I get Tested?

Screening involves seeing your doctor for an extensive history and physical examination, risk factor assessment, and bone mineral density testing. It’s recommended women 65 years and older and men age 70 and older get screened.  Women under the age of 65 and men between ages 50-69 with risk factors should be tested earlier.

A bone mineral density test is conducted using a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan.  The test is non-invasive with minimal radiation exposure.This test compares your bone density to the bones of an average healthy young adult using a T-score. Your T-score tells you how strong your bones are, whether you have osteoporosis or osteopenia (low bone mass), and your risk for having a fracture.

How is it Treated?

                If your T-score shows you have osteoporosis, treatment is recommended for postmenopausal women and men over the age of 50 who have:

  • Suffered a hip or a vertebral fracture
  • Had an abnormal bone mineral density result in the category of osteoporosis or
  • Bone mineral density test results indicate a high 10 yr. probability of a hip fracture or other major osteoporosis related fracture.  

Treatment for osteoporosis consists of pharmacologic medications in addition to adequate Calcium and Vitamin D intake. Your Endocrinologist will also asses your individual fall risk and teach fracture prevention as part of your treatment pla

How can it be Prevented?

                Practicing a healthy lifestyle when you’re young can help with the prevention of osteoporosis. Important aspects include:

  • Eating a healthy diet,
  • Adequate intake of Calcium and Vitamin D
  • Regular weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercises to improve strength, posture, balance and flexibility
    • Exercises may include running, jogging, stair climbing, dancing, walking, Tai-Chi, yoga, Pilates, etc.
  • Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol use

It’s important to learn about osteoporosis because it can be prevented or treated to reduce the risk of a fracture. Speak with your Primary Care Physician (PCP) if you have any of the risk factors above. Your PCP will refer you to an Endocrinologist if they feel further testing is needed. Remember, start healthy habits while you’re young to help prevent osteoporosis!  


Ila Khanna, MD, is an Endocrinologist at Crystal Run Healthcare in Monroe. She earned her Medical Degree from St. George’s University and completed her Residency in Internal Medicine at University of Connecticut in Farmington, CT and Fellowship training in Endocrinology at East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine in Greenville, NC. Dr. Khanna is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology, and Diabetes & Metabolism.