PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Osteoporosis used to be something you only worried about when you got older.
You don’t necessarily have to be old and frail to get osteoporosis. It is possible to have it when you’re younger – even in your 40s and 50s.
That’s when Faye Lakeman found out her bones were slowly deteriorating. Today, both she and her husband, Dan, are getting around fine, despite the fact he’s also being treated for severe bone loss.
“You are constantly aware of the dangers of making a wrong move and what it might do to really limit you in the long run, with a broken bone,” Dan said.
When young people have osteoporosis, doctors think about something called “secondary osteoporosis.”
This means the bone loss isn’t just from aging. It is being sped up by other factors.
“We always look for that, because if we can find that cause, we can treat it and prevent the development of bone disease,” Dr. Marc Itskowitz said.
Vitamin D deficiency, certain bowel diseases and excessive alcohol can lead to a premature thinning of the bones.
However, medications are a chief cause, especially steroids.
Steroids are a common drug for people with some types of arthritis and lung disease.
Other causes include: narcotic pain relievers, anti-depressants, anti-seizure medications and proton pump inhibitors for reflux.
The problem is many patients take these drugs for years.
“I am on a significant number of medications and I think that may be a certain aspect of that,” Dan said.
If you have to be on these medications, it might be a good idea to have a bone density test, which is like an X-ray checking your hip, forearm, and lower back.
If it looks like you’re losing bone density, talk to your doctor about what else you might be able to take instead.
Of course, there are good treatments for osteoporosis. The idea is to prevent a hip fracture, which is the most serious complication.