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Four Stories of How Osteoporosis Impacts Lives

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When Osteopororis Strikes at an Early Age

Susan's Story

Diagnosed: At age 46

Condition: Susan has osteoporosis of the spine, right and left hip.

Advice: "The bone density test is the easiest test you'll ever have. You lie down and it can be done in minutes. It should be done by everyone."

What She Says: "People are surprised that I have osteoporosis. Everyone thinks it is a little old lady's disease."

A Look at Susan - "I never smoked, my drinking is limited and overall I am healthy," said Susan, referring to some risk factors for the disease. However, from about age 24, Susan experienced problems with dairy products and couldn't tolerate them. She was at risk because of her low-calcium diet. Her mother also has osteoporosis, so that made Susan even more prone.

Susan knows the importance of talking about osteoporosis with friends and family members, and she knows how a good fitness program can help rebuild bones and she exercises regularly. "These are the cards you're dealt," said Susan, who has a positive attitude. "I feel lucky to live in this day and that there are medicines to help improve osteoporosis. Ten years ago they didn't have some of these medicines."

Early Menopause and the Link to Osteoporosis

Pam's Story

Diagnosed: At age 44

Current Condition: Pam has osteoporosis, diagnosed after she had broken several bones with minimal trauma. She knows about trauma: she was in severe automoblile collision 30 years ago, sustaining significant injuries. She has been living with osteoporosis for about 20 years.

Advice: "I'm not sure what caused my osteoporosis - there are probably a lot of factors. My mother had been diagnosed with the condition. Also, I was limited in how much weight bearing activity I could do for quite a while after my motor vehicle collision; my diet when I was younger was also not very good. Ther are some things out of your control regarding the development of osteoporosis; however, I know you can do things to keep it in check, and I am doing everything I possibly can so I can continue to do things in life I want to."

What She Says: "It was devastating to learn that a woman of my age would have such a low bone density. I started working with a trainer twice a week using weights to increase my bone density. To this day I continue to exercise, lift the weights, watch my diet, and stay informed about the advancements and treatments for osteoporosis."

A Look at Pam - Thirty years ago Pam was in a serious automobile accident, Nearly every bone had been broken, including both legs and spine. After several surgeries and months of intensive physical therapy, she was able to walk again and slowly return to her job as a Flight Attendant for a major airline. Over the last several years she has had numerous subsequent surgeries due to the damage from the accident and joint deterioration from posttraumatic arthritis.

The Fight Against Fragility Fractures

Ellen's Story

Diagnosed: At age 52

Current Condition: Ellen has osteoporosis of the hip and spine and arthritis. She has suffered multiple fractures of the neck, hip and shoulder.

Treatment: She has taken medication for osteoporosis for more than 15 years to slow down bone loss, calcium supplements for more than 40 years, and a vitamin D supplement. She exercises on a regular basis.

Advice: "If I was working as a physical therapist now, I would tell people different things. One didn't know (back then) that exercise had to be weight-bearing. Younger people should lift weights."

What She Says: "My bone density is so poor, I have a lifelong danger of non-traumatic fractures."

A Look at Ellen - For 45 years, Ellen has lived with osteoporosis. At age 52, she was a hospital physical therapist and was having severe back pain. An X-ray revealed she had arthritis and osteoporosis.

"Osteoporosis has affected my life quite a bit," said Ellen, who retired at age 59 because of arthritis of the back and knees. "Until the first two fractures - I always was quite active."

About 30 years ago, Ellen suffered a compression fracture of a neck vertebrae while sleeping. About 23 years ago, she slipped on a wet kitchen floor and had a spinal compression fracture. Six weeks after that, she suffered yet another compression fracture while walking. Other breaks have included hip and shoulder fractures from falls. She admits she has fallen many times. But unlike other people, her falls often result in a fracture, which take weeks to heal. Ellen had several risk factors for developing osteoporosis. She has a small build and the disease has affected other family members. Also, Ellen never drank much milk as an adult, but she did consume other dairy products.

When Men Have Poor Bone Health

Steve's Story

Diagnosed: At age 42

Current Condition: Steve has osteoporosis of the spine.

Treatment: Steve was placed on therapy with oral bisphosphonate. His Vitamin D was repleted with high dose Ergocalcifeorol and then switched over to Cholecalciferol for maintenance. He was also placed on Calcium supplement, and the doctor recommended he start a more regular weight-bearing exercise program. He stayed on the bisphosphonate for 4 years until his DXA showed stabilization and he now just takes Calcium and Vitamin D supplements daily. Weight bearing exercise continue to be part of his regular routine.

Advice: "Because I maintained a healthy and active lifestyle which was required of my occupation as a Police Officer, it was distressing to me to find out I could easily fracture a bone with just a minor injury especially in my line of work. I had always connected fragile bone disease with elderly women."

A Look at Steve - Steve's wife is a Nurse Practitioner in an Osteoporosis Center and both of them were taken by surprise when the results of a DXA scan he took one day, purely out of interest in the DXA michine in the center where his wife works, demonstrated osteoporosis. His internist was also surprised. Steve had never had a fracture. At that time Steve was working in law enforcement as a police sergeant. He was physically active and there was no reason to suspect he had osteoporosis.

It was not clear what his risks were as he had always been healthy, didn't smoke, ate a good diet and neither of his parents had osteoporosis. The internist was unsure of why Steve had osteoporosis so made the decision to send him to an osteoporosis specialist.

The doctor reviewed his history and ordered a battery of laboratory tests to find other contributing causes. While reviewing his history she discovered that approximately 2 years earlier he was diagnosed with thyroiditis. His laboratory results also demonstrated a low Vitamin D level. The doctor concluded that these two conditions caused enough bone loss to develop osteoporosis.

Steve retired from law enforcement in 2002 and now works as a Transportation Security Manager with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.