What are Thin Bones?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist

A person with thin bones suffers from the gradual loss of bone mass due to a bone disease called osteoporosis. Thin bones become weakened and excessively brittle, which can lead to a greater vulnerability to fractures. Unlike many diseases, patients will not be aware of any symptoms until the disease is advanced, and they may only learn that they have thin bones when they suffer from a fracture. This condition is treatable through medication, diet, and exercise. People who are at a high risk of developing osteoporosis should also take measures to prevent bone loss before it occurs.

Osteoporosis is characterized by a gradual deterioration of bone tissue, which can lead to thin or brittle bones.
Osteoporosis is characterized by a gradual deterioration of bone tissue, which can lead to thin or brittle bones.

Women are at a higher risk of thin bones than men, as are the elderly and those with a family history of the disease. Other risk factors include being very thin, having an overactive thyroid, and having weight loss surgery. Those who use tobacco, consume more than two alcoholic beverages daily, and have a sedentary lifestyle are also more likely to have osteoporosis. Low calcium intake over a long period of time can rob bones of the material needed to support bone health. Some medications, such as corticosteroids, anti-depressants, and antacids, may also lead to bone loss if they are used on a long-term basis.

Those with osteoporosis have weaker, more brittle bones.
Those with osteoporosis have weaker, more brittle bones.

Those who have risk factors for thin bones, as well as all women over the age of 65, should have their doctors perform a bone density test. This scan indicates whether a person has a healthy amount of bone mass or is losing bone density. If the physician suspects that the patient's thin bones may be caused by a medical condition, he will likely order other tests to discover the root cause.

Exercising with free weights can help build bone mass, especially for women.
Exercising with free weights can help build bone mass, especially for women.

Once a diagnosis of osteoporosis is made, the doctor will discuss the patient's medication options. A medication called teriparatide is given by injection once daily for no longer than two years. It helps to encourage the increase of bone density. Calcitonin is a medication that may help slow the loss of bone mass. This drug may be taken as an injection or as a nasal spray.

Other commonly used medications for thin bones are bisphosphonates. These drugs, which include risedronate and aledronate, can not only help prevent the loss of further bone mass, but also increase bone density. These are usually taken by mouth either daily, weekly, or monthly, however a patient who cannot tolerate this drug well may have it administered intravenously in the hospital. Hormone therapy using estrogen is also a possibility, however it is generally considered a last resort, due to potential serious complications.

In addition to medication, patients who seek to either treat or prevent thin bones should focus on their diet and exercise routines. It is recommended that patients consume a diet rich in calcium and protein. They may also take vitamin D and calcium supplements in dosages recommended by their doctors. Resistance exercises and weight-bearing exercises, such as jogging, free weights, and stretch bands, can all help build bone mass. Patients should discuss any new exercise regimen with their doctors.

A sedentary lifestyle can put one at risk for osteoporosis.
A sedentary lifestyle can put one at risk for osteoporosis.

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