The human body contains 206 bones. Bones are living tissue, just like all the other parts of our bodies and, as such, are constantly going through a cycle of renewal. Older bone tissue is replaced with newly formed bone tissue in a process called remodeling. Much like the remodeling of a home, our skeletal structure is reinforced so that we can depend on it throughout our lives.
We commonly measure the condition of our bones by its density or “bone mass.” A bone mineral density (BMD) screening, for example, can help a physician identify the calcium content of bones – and thus how strong our bones are.
Our bone density peaks when we are young adults, typically between the ages of 25 and 30. Thereafter, as we continue to age, our bones gradually lose density. But there are ways to combat this natural loss of bone mass – such as vitamins and minerals, medications like estrogen replacement therapy, and strength-training and weight-bearing exercises.
So, what are the most common diseases or disorders that affect the bones? Here are 10 you’ll want to avoid if possible:
- Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis, in which low density means the bones are brittle and weak and prone to easily break, is by far the most common bone disease. It currently affects 44 million – or approximately half of all – Americans aged 50 and older. Osteoporosis strikes more women than men, and even children may be at risk of developing juvenile osteoporosis. Bone density problems may occur because the body loses too much bone tissue, makes too little of it, or some combination of both. It tends to be symptomless. That is, people with osteoporosis tend not to know they have it – until a bone fracture has them visiting a doctor who makes the diagnosis.
- Paget’s Disease: This is a bone disorder where the bone renewal process (remodeling) occurs too quickly, leading to bone deformities (soft, enlarged bones such as of the spine, pelvis, skull, and the long bones of the thighs and lower leg). Paget’s disease tends to occur in white adults over the age of 55 and may have a hereditary component.
- Bone Infection: Also called osteomyelitis, infection of bone tissue is a rare but serious condition. It can occur following a surgery, such as a hip replacement, or may spread to the bones from another part of the body. Pain, swelling, and redness are common symptoms of a bone infection, and antibiotics are a common component of treatment. In some cases, portions of the infected bone may need to be surgically removed.
- Osteonecrosis: Without blood, bone tissue dies, a disease called osteonecrosis. In most cases, it occurs as the result of trauma to the bone that disrupts blood flow to the bone – such as a hip fracture. Prolonged high-dose steroid use can also cause this type of bone cell death. Once the bone tissue dies, the bone weakens and collapses. Pain that gradually gets worse may indicate osteonecrosis.
- Bone Tumors: Bone tumors occur when the uncontrolled growth of cells occurs inside bone. These tumors can be benign or malignant, although benign (noncancerous) bone tumors that do not impinge on other bone tissue and do not spread are more common.
- Osteoarthritis: A chronic degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, with more than 3 million Americans diagnosed each year. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that acts as a cushion between bones breaks down and the bones rub together, causing pain, inflammation, and stiffness.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, immunodeficiency disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s tissues, such as the joints in the hands and feet. Unlike the wear-and-tear damage that occurs with osteoarthritis, RA affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.
- Scoliosis: This condition, in which the bones of the spine curve abnormally to the left or right, usually strikes just prior to puberty. There are approximately 3 million scoliosis diagnosis made each year in the US, although most cases are mild. In some cases, the spinal deformities get worse with time. Its cause is unknown, although a hereditary component is suspected.
- Low Bone Density: Also called osteopenia, it is diagnosed when a person’s bone density is lower than it should be. Low bone density can lead to osteoporosis, which causes fractures, pain, and a stooped appearance. It is important to make the changes necessary to improve bone density if you are diagnosed with osteopenia.
- Gout: The joints are unusually affected in people who develop gout, a common disorder in which excess uric acid crystals accumulate in the joints, causing abnormal swelling, pain, and redness. The big toe is typically noticeably swollen, but symptoms may also occur in other joints, including the ankle, foot, or knee. Gout may occur due to your diet, or if your kidneys are not properly processing uric acid.
To learn more about how we can help treat brittle bones and bone density issues to help you avoid fractures, call Total Orthopaedic Care at (954) 735-3535. To schedule an appointment, call or use our secure online appointment request form.