Osteoporosis, the age-related bone-thinning disease that strikes more women than men, is increasingly striking younger people who have a host of other medical problems, according to new research reported by the Wall Street Journal
In what researchers are calling secondary osteoporosis, the disease is becoming a more common factor contributing to bone deterioration, alongside other chronic diseases and some of the powerful drugs used to treat them. Alone or in combination, disease and medication can interfere with the way the body naturally breaks down and rebuilds bone tissue, and how well it absorbs bone-strengthening nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.
As a result of the trend, bone health experts are calling for greater efforts to identify patients earlier who are at risk for secondary osteoporosis, before their bones become more fragile and further raise their risk of injury and disability.
Recommended measures include bone mineral density scans for patients who wouldn't ordinarily get routine screening, treatment of underlying diseases that contribute to bone loss, lifestyle changes and calcium and vitamin D supplements. Doctors also are prescribing osteoporosis medicines shown to slow bone loss or build new bone, the Journal reports.
Secondary osteoporosis is increasingly being diagnosed in younger patients with cancer, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as those taking reflux medications, blood thinners, and some depression drugs, researchers say.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, nine million adults in the U.S. have osteoporosis and an additional 43 million have low bone mass, or osteopenia, which increases their risk of osteoporosis and broken bones.
Last year, a review by researchers at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., found secondary causes of bone loss are reported in up to 60 percent of men, more than 50 percent of premenopausal women and some 30 percent of postmenopausal women who are diagnosed with osteoporosis.
"When I find a younger patient with osteoporosis, there is likely to be a secondary cause, and if that cause isn't treated, they will continue to lose bone even if they are on osteoporosis medications," Pauline M. Camacho, an endocrinologist at Loyola and co-author of the study, told the Journal.