The adult human body is composed of 206 bones. These bones serve as the body’s support structure, helping maintain proper posture, facilitating movement, and ensuring the proper functioning of other body parts. However, just like other parts of the body, bones can be damaged due to accidents, infections, and various types of diseases.
Some of the bone diseases include osteoporosis, osteopenia, osteomalacia, bone cancer, and Paget’s disease of bone. Symptoms of these diseases may include muscle inflammation, pain, body weakness, and frequent bone fractures.
Bone diseases can be a result of hereditary factors. Some are due to a deficiency in vitamin D and calcium. Meanwhile, a lack of exercise or physical activity can also lead to weakening of the bones.
There are bone diseases that are incurable. However, others can be treated with medications, taking vitamins and calcium supplements, and some corrective procedures, as in the case of scoliosis.
How do bone diseases affect the body?
The bones in the human body are living structures, meaning they are composed of cells like other parts of the body. Bones are naturally hard due to calcification, a characteristic necessary to maintain the body’s overall stability.
Therefore, when bones become weak or are affected by diseases or conditions, an individual might experience the following:
An inability to walk or move the arms
The spine becoming curved or bent
Thus, it’s crucial to take every preventive measure you can to ensure bone health. This is also essential for maintaining the overall proper functioning of the entire body.
History of Bone Diseases
Bone diseases have been known since ancient times. However, the primary diseases affecting this part of the body have been fully understood only in the past few centuries.
In 1824, Sir Astley Cooper introduced the connection between aging and the weakening of bones. The term for this condition, osteoporosis, was coined by the French physician Jean Lobstein. Meanwhile, the American endocrinologist Fuller Albright linked this disease to the postmenopausal condition in women.
In modern times, experts have acquired an extensive knowledge about various bone diseases. However, there are still diseases affecting this part of the body that continue to be studied because their causes are not yet fully understood.
Image Source: www.freepik.com There are types of bone diseases that affect infants and there are some that affect the elderly, such as osteoporosis. The symptoms of common bone diseases are not immediately noticeable, especially when they are just beginning.
One might suspect a person has a bone disease if the following symptoms are observed:
Frequent bone fractures
Recurring muscle inflammation
Recurring muscle pain
Inability to walk properly and for long distances
Curving of the spine
If you notice these symptoms, especially in the elderly, it’s advised to immediately consult with an orthopedic or osteopathic doctor.
Bone diseases can be caused by any of the following:
Inadequate nutrition. Vitamin D and calcium deficiency results in the weakening of the bones. These nutrients are crucial in maintaining strong and healthy bones.
Excessive consumption of soft drinks. Soft drinks and other carbonated beverages contain ingredients that weaken bones.
High levels of animal protein. Consuming too much meat can lead to a decrease in bone calcium levels, further weakening them.
Accidents. Severe impacts on the body can result in temporary or permanent bone damage.
Inherited conditions. There are certain hereditary conditions, such as metabolic diseases, that weaken or damage bone cells.
Lack of exercise. Research has shown that a lack of exercise can reduce bone density. Consequently, bones may weaken to the point that they lose their ability to support the whole body or parts of it.
Infections. Certain bacterial infections can weaken the bones.
With these in mind, who is at a higher risk of developing bone diseases?
Risk factors for bone diseases:
Based on various studies, the following are some of the risk factors for bone diseases:
Women. It has been proven that women are at a higher risk of developing certain bone diseases, especially osteoporosis.
Aging. As a person ages, bone strength and bone density decrease.
Nutritional deficiencies. Individuals lacking certain vitamins and calcium in their diet are more vulnerable to bone diseases.
Having family members with conditions that weaken bones. Some diseases that weaken the bones can be hereditary.
People who do not exercise. Those who do not get enough exercise have a higher risk of their bones weakening.
Individuals taking certain medications like proton pump inhibitors. Medications like proton pump inhibitors (PPI) affect the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Treatment and Prevention
A medical professional who examines and administers treatment for bone diseases is called an orthopedic doctor or an osteopathic physician.
To ascertain the overall health of bones, these doctors examine them using a method called bone mineral density (BMD) screening. This measures or checks the density of bones, providing insight into their overall condition.
Medications for bone diseases
Depending on the type or condition of the bone, the following are various types of medications a doctor might prescribe:
Cholecalciferol. This medication is used to treat a type of rickets that can’t be cured by consuming vitamin D. It helps ensure that the body and the bones meet their vitamin D requirement.
Pamidronic acid. Used to treat hypercalcemia, a condition where there’s an excess of calcium in the body and results in weakened bones. This condition might be associated with bone cancer.
Zoledronic acid. This medication is also used for hypercalcemia of malignancy. It’s also used for patients with multiple myeloma and Paget’s disease.
Alendronic acid. This is used for men with osteoporosis and for women in the postmenopausal stage. It can also be used to treat Paget’s disease of bone.
Ibandronate. This medication helps prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
Clodronic acid. This is used to treat hypercalcemia of malignancy.
Risedronic acid. This medicine is used to help treat osteoporosis in men, Paget’s disease, and osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. It also helps prevent glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis.
Etidronic acid. This is used to treat symptomatic Paget’s disease of bone, and for treating heterotopic ossification after a patient undergoes total hip replacement.
Tiludronic acid. This is primarily used to treat Paget’s disease of bone.
Calcium supplement. If the body has a calcium deficiency, it can be addressed with a calcium supplement. This greatly contributes to maintaining strong bones and overall bone health.
For scoliosis, the affected individual can wear a certain type of brace to correct their posture. A surgery can also be performed to straighten the spine.
The best way to maintain the health and strength of the bones is to avoid conditions or situations that can cause damage to them.
The following are effective ways to prevent bone diseases:
Choose foods rich in calcium. Calcium strengthens the bones. Therefore, it is recommended to choose foods rich in this nutrient. Some foods that can be a source of calcium include milk, cheese, soy, sardines, and certain types of green vegetables. If there is a severe deficiency of calcium in the body, a doctor might prescribe calcium supplements.
Choose foods rich in vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for overall body health, especially the bones. It helps the body absorb calcium quickly. If there’s a significant deficiency of vitamin D in the body, especially in the elderly, doctors might recommend taking vitamin D supplements. This vitamin can be found in fatty fish, like tuna and mackerel. It can also be sourced from beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks.
Adequate exercise. Exercising helps maintain bone mass. Therefore, experts recommend getting at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. The best form of exercise is brisk walking. For those unable to exercise due to injuries or disabilities, they can undergo mechanical stimulation where a machine assists their movement. This way, their body gets the necessary exercise.
Avoid accidents. One of the biggest threats to bone health is falling or other types of accidents. Depending on the severity, an accident can cause a bone fracture which might or might not be treatable—especially in the elderly. Therefore, ensure safety inside the home and surroundings where there aren’t many obstacles that might cause accidents. If possible, avoid activities that can put oneself at risk, like extreme sports.
Another step to reduce the risk of bone diseases is to be knowledgeable about the various types of these diseases.
Types of Bone Diseases
Here are various diseases and conditions that affect the bones:
Achondroplasia. This is a type of genetic disease where there is an improper transformation of cartilage into bone. As a result, long bones like the femur do not grow properly.
Avascular necrosis. This condition refers to the death of bone tissue due to lack of blood flow. Although it commonly affects the ends of the femur, it can also affect other parts of bones.
Hip fracture. Anyone can suffer a hip fracture. It can result from accidents, falls, or weakened bones.
Bone fracture. The breaking of a bone due to pressure or trauma. It can also be caused by bone weakness due to inherited or congenital factors.
Bone fracture with dislocation. In this condition, there is simultaneous bone fracture and dislocation of the joints. The joints might not return to their original position immediately because of a small piece of bone blocking them. This is treated through surgery.
Bone cyst. This condition refers to non-cancerous lumps on the bone. These lumps typically appear as fluid-filled sacs.
Bursitis. This disease refers to the inflammation of the bursa, which are fluid-filled sacs located between bones, tendons, joints, and muscles.
Caffey syndrome. This is a type of inherited condition that commonly affects infants. It causes inflammation of the periosteum, the part of the bone where new bones form, as well as in the bone cortex of the arms, shoulders, and lower parts of the jaw. This disease usually comes with fever and infant restlessness.
Callus. This refers to the formation of bony or cartilaginous sections where there was a bone fracture when it is healing.
Cleidocranial dysostosis. This is a rare congenital disease. It can also be inherited. In cleidocranial dysostosis, the collarbones don’t grow or they are very small. The disease also causes improper formation of the skull or the improper growth of teeth.
Ewing tumor of bone. This is a condition where bone tumors form and can lead to cancer, especially in Caucasian males under the age of 20. The disease usually begins in the long bones of the body.
Fibrous dysplasia. This uncommon condition arises from childhood. In this state, hard bones are replaced by fibrous tissue, often only in one part of the body but particularly the long bones.
Gout. A condition where the fingers of the hands or feet become swollen and painful.
Hip dysplasia. This condition refers to the improper development of the hip joint. As a result, individuals with this disorder may struggle to walk long distances.
Bone cancer. This is a condition where there is an uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells in the bone. If not detected early, bone cancer can spread to other parts of the body.
Mandibulofacial dysostosis. This is a rare inherited condition. It has autosomal-dominant features, like having small cheekbones and jawbones, widely spaced eyes, and improper development of the eyelids.
Marble bone disease. This rare disease makes the bones extremely dense, hard, and brittle. The condition worsens as the bones grow, and the marrow cavity becomes compacted in the bones.
Melorheostosis. In this disease, abnormal growths occur on the cortical parts of the bones. It results in pain, stiffness, and movement difficulty in the affected area, usually the arms or thighs.
Metabolic bone disease. This condition refers to any disease that causes improper bone growth. Some of types of metabolic bone diseases include osteoporosis, rickets, osteomalacia, osteogenesis imperfecta, marble bone disease (osteopetrosis), and Paget’s disease of bone.
Bone tumor. This is the development of a non-cancerous tumor that can be composed of cartilage or bone. It can be inherited or result from accidents.
Osteochondrosis. This is a temporary bone condition that commonly affects children. In this state, the bone’s epiphysis dies due to lack of blood and gradually gets replaced over several years.
Osteoclastoma. Osteoclastoma is a kind of tumor that primarily appears at the ends of long bones near the knees. It can also be found in wrist joints, arms, and other parts of the body.
Osteogenesis imperfecta. This is a rare and inherited condition of the connective tissues. It results in fragile bones that easily break. It stems from a genetic defect where there’s a lack of protein collagen in bones that maintains their health.
Osteoma. This is a small bone tumor, often affecting the skull. It typically grows in late childhood or young adulthood. Osteomas are not cancerous.
Osteomalacia. This condition is where adult bones continue to soften due to insufficient bone mineralization. It’s called rickets in children.
Osteomyelitis. An infection of the bone tissue. This condition is caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, which affects bones through the bloodstream.
Osteoporosis. This disease refers to the thinning of bones. It causes bones to break from minimal pressure or strain. Osteoporosis is a type of metabolic bone disease.
Osteosarcoma. A common bone cancer that primarily affects the ends of long bones, especially the knees, pelvis, and shoulders. The exact cause is unknown, but inherited conditions and radiation therapy might be risk factors for osteosarcoma.
Paget’s disease of bone. This is a type of recurring bone condition affecting middle-aged people and causes excessive bone damage. The disease may affect only a part of a bone or all bones in the body.
Rickets. This disease commonly affects infants and children. It causes the bones to soften, leading to their abnormal growth. This results from a vitamin D deficiency.
Scoliosis. This is the sideways curvature or twisting of the spine. It typically occurs during the rapid growth spurt before puberty.
Stress fracture. The breaking of bone/s due to intense pressure or stress. It’s also known as “march fractures,” as it often affects new army recruits subjected to intense training.