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Published on April 26, 2012

Osteoporosis: The Silent Disease with a Huge Impact

In Brief

  • Osteoporosis, “the silent disease,” is characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue that leads to bone fragility and a higher risk of fractures of the spine, hip and wrist.
  • Osteoporosis can be prevented and treated, and isn’t just a woman’s disease.
  • Family history, gender, age, body size and ethnicity are some osteoporosis risk factors that cannot be changed.
  • The Osteoporosis Center of Delaware County is dedicated to diagnosing and treating this disease and helping patients improve the quality of their lives.

In the United States, 40 million people are already affected by osteoporosis or are at high risk due to low bone mass. According to the National Institutes of Health, osteoporosis is a disease that is characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue that leads to bone fragility and a greater risk of fractures of the spine, hip and wrist.

Osteoporosis is commonly called “the silent disease” because bone loss occurs without any symptoms. Osteoporosis isn’t just a woman’s disease; men are also at risk. Thankfully, it can be prevented and treated.

Barry Jacobson, M.D., gynecologist and medical director of The Osteoporosis Center of Delaware County, aims to develop successful treatment plans for patients suffering from osteoporosis. “As a specialist, I treat men and women who have already been diagnosed with weak bones, and those who have not. I am not necessarily the first person a patient will come to, but I am there to treat those with weak bones and to suggest and provide the best medication and therapy needed,” Jacobson says

Patients are usually diagnosed with osteoporosis by their OB/GYN, midwife or rheumatologist. If their provider feels additional follow up is necessary, they may refer the patient to a specialist.

“The difference in seeing an OB/GYN and a specialist is that if a patient feels comfortable and content after what their OB/GYN has said, then there may be no need to take it to the next level. I am there for additional diagnosis; drug referrals; for those who have not been successful with therapy or medication and are in need of a different approach; or for those who are not sure how they should be treated,” Jacobson says.

Mary Olley began seeing Jacobson in 1991 after her last child was born. “Once I noticed my height decreasing, I sought treatment. Dr. Jacobson really helped me a lot. We experimented with different medications, when needed, and he informed me the entire time about everything I was experiencing,” Olley says. “I would absolutely recommend seeing an osteoporosis specialist like Dr. Jacobson ¾ not only for the treatment, but from an educational standpoint as well. I feel as though seeing this type of specialist has been very beneficial to me and my health.”

A Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) test is the most common screening test for osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Foundation’s guidelines state that postmenopausal women and men 50 and older should be tested.

During a DEXA scan, patients lay on a padded table and a scanner passes over one of three skeletal areas — the lower spine, hip or wrist — to measure bone density.

DEXA scans are painless and can be used to:

  • Detect low bone density before a fracture occurs
  • Confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis
  • Predict the chance of a fracture
  • Determine the rate of bone loss and monitor the effects of treatment

The test takes approximately 10-15 minutes. Routine check ups every two years may be needed to identify if there has been an increase or decrease in bone mineral density.

Some risk factors for osteoporosis can be changed while others cannot. Uncontrollable risk factors include:

  • Gender: Women have a greater chance for developing osteoporosis
  • Age: The older you are, the greater the risk. Bones become weaker and thinner with age
  • Body size: Small, thin-boned women are at a greater risk
  • Ethnicity: Caucasian and Asian women are at highest risk
  • Family history.

Risk factors that can be changed include:

  • Calcium and vitamin D intake
  • Lifestyle
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Alcohol intake.

Although osteoporosis is called the silent disease, its effects don’t hesitate to make their presence known. Even though osteoporosis may be inevitable for some, there are numerous ways to lower the risks and treat existing conditions. The trick is to recognize your risks and work to modify or eliminate them.

The Osteoporosis Center of Delaware County is a full-service center for the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis. Services include DEXA scan, interpretation and metabolic screenings, infusions, injectables and other medications. To make an appointment or to learn more about The Osteoporosis Center of Delaware County, call (610) 394-4755. 

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