Any disease other than osteoporosis can affect your bones. Conditions such as coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease and chronic liver disease are associated with increasing the risk of weakening the bones and therefore causing fractures. We discuss some common chronic conditions as well as some not-so-common secondary causes for developing osteoporosis below. There are many more – please visit our website for more information.

Various bone conditions exist which, while not exactly osteoporosis, could play a part in the development of thinning bones. Along with these conditions are the added lifestyle habits of not enough exercise, smoking, drinking and certain medications. You can’t always be sure what your bones are up to, or how they are reacting to other disruptive influences, so it’s good to get to know the various conditions that can play a part in bone disease.

Multiple Sclerosis: Anything that impedes your ability to walk can accelerate bone loss. While asthma and multiple sclerosis are two very different conditions, they may both increase the risk of osteoporosis. People with these conditions take steroid-based medications to help manage their symptoms, and steroids are associated with bone loss. Since multiple sclerosis also affects balance and movement for many people, it can become difficult to get as much weight-bearing exercise as needed to build and maintain bone.

Type 1 Diabetes: This usually begins in childhood, when your bones are still growing. With this condition, your body makes little or no insulin, a hormone that helps control blood sugar. It may also weaken your bones. Doctors aren’t sure why, but without enough insulin, your bones may not grow as well or reach their peak bone mass. Your doctor can help you manage the condition with drugs, diet, blood sugar tests, and lifestyle changes.

 Lupus: With immune system conditions like Lupus, your defence system attacks your own body. Muscle pain, fever, tiredness, rashes, and hair loss are common symptoms. So are swollen, painful joints. You’re also more likely to develop osteoporosis and end up breaking bones. And the corticosteroids you may have to take to treat lupus can also cause bone loss.

 Celiac Disease: This is a condition that means your body can’t handle gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains. When you eat gluten, your immune system attacks and damages your small intestine. This makes it harder for your body to absorb nutrients, including calcium, that your bones need. Weaker bones are common if you have this disease but don’t know it. A strictly gluten-free diet is the only way to improve the condition so that your body can heal.

 Hyperthyroidism: This can occur when your thyroid gland makes too much of the hormones that normally help your body use energy. It can make you tired, sleepless, and shaky. It also speeds bone loss, and sometimes your body can’t replace it fast enough. If it happens for too long, you can develop osteoporosis. Medication or surgery are the only options to get your hormone levels back to normal.

 Fibrous Dysplasia: Here, genes tell your body to replace healthy bone with other types of tissue. Bones may become weak, oddly shaped, and fracture more easily. Many children between 6 and 10 who have this condition break their bones. It often affects one side of the body, usually in the arm, pelvis, face, leg, or ribs. To curb symptoms, you may need medication, casts, and surgery. Diet and exercises can be helpful.

 Osteoarthritis: This is the “wear and tear” type of arthritis. It damages the slippery tissue that covers the ends of your bones, and which lets them move against one another. Bone and cartilage can break off and cause pain and swelling. Over time, it can even change the joint’s shape. Exercise and losing extra pounds can help curb the pain and stiffness. Medication and other treatments such as electrical stimulation or sometimes surgery are the only options.

 Rheumatoid Arthritis: Like Lupus, this is an autoimmune disease. Your body’s defence system attacks your joints and bones, often in the hands and feet.  Besides pain and swelling in your joints, you may feel tired and feverish. Your doctor can help you manage it with medicine and in some cases surgery. It may also help to eat lots of anti-inflammatory foods, along with exercising to strengthen your heart and other muscles, and to improve your joints’ range of motion.

 Osteopetrosis:  This may sound like the flip side of osteoporosis because it means your bones become too dense. But they don’t become stronger. In fact, they weaken and may break more easily. This condition can also affect the marrow inside your bones, which can make it harder for your body to fight infection, carry oxygen, and control bleeding. Treatments include medication, supplements, hormones, and sometimes surgery. Physical therapy is also recommended.

 Osteonecrosis (Avascular Necrosis): This can happen when bone, often in the thigh, arm, knees, or shoulders, doesn’t get enough blood. Without it, the bone tissue dies and collapses. It can lead to pain and make it harder to move. Your doctor will look for the cause, which may be an injury, medication, or diseases such as cancer, Lupus, and HIV. You may need drugs, surgery, or other treatments.

Bones are our strength in life, but also vulnerable to many negative influences. We are married to them 24/7 – so be aware; always keep them top of mind in sickness and in health. Love your bones!

NOFSA (National Osteoporosis Foundation South Africa)

NOFSA is the only non-profit, voluntary health organisation dedicated to promoting lifelong bone health. We focus on reducing the widespread prevalence of osteoporosis while working to find a cure for the disease, and by supporting research and developing programmes of education and advocacy.

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