Catherine Burt Driver, MD
Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- What is osteopenia?
- What causes osteopenia?
- What are osteopenia symptoms and signs?
- How widespread is osteopenia?
- Why is osteopenia important?
- When should I see my doctor for osteopenia?
- How is osteopenia diagnosed?
- Who should be tested for osteopenia?
- What is the treatment for osteopenia?
- What follow-up is needed after treatment of osteopenia has been initiated?
- Can osteopenia be prevented?
- Osteopenia At A Glance
- Find a local Doctor in your town
What are osteopenia symptoms and signs?
Osteopenia does not cause pain unless a bone is broken (fractured). Interestingly, fractures in patients with osteopenia do not always cause pain. Osteopenia or osteoporosis can be present for many years prior to diagnosis for these reasons. Many bone fractures due to osteopenia or osteoporosis, such as a hip fracture or vertebral fracture (fracture of a bone in the spine), are very painful. However, some fractures, especially vertebral fractures (fractures of the bony building blocks of the spine), can be painless and therefore osteopenia or osteoporosis may go undiagnosed for years.
How widespread is osteopenia?
Osteopenia affects an estimated 34 million people in the United States. Approximately 80% of those affected are women. Nevertheless, men also can be affected by osteopenia and osteoporosis and should also be evaluated for these bone conditions when they are considered to be at risk.
Why is osteopenia important?
Osteopenia is important because it can cause bone fractures. People with osteopenia are not as likely to fracture a bone as those with osteoporosis; however, because there are many more people with osteopenia than osteoporosis, patients with osteopenia account for a large number of patients who fracture a bone. In other words, while osteoporosis indicates bone that is more prone to fracture and people with osteoporosis have a higher percentage risk of fracture than osteopenia, because of the much larger number of people with osteopenia there is a greater total number of fractures in these people.
Approximately 50% of Caucasian women will fracture a bone in their lifetime. Bone fractures due to osteopenia and osteoporosis are important because they can be very painful, although some spinal (vertebral) fractures are painless.
In addition to the pain, hip fractures are a serious problem because they require surgical repair. Also, up to 30% of patients require long-term nursing-home care after a hip fracture. Fractures, especially in the elderly, are associated with an increase in overall mortality (death rate). Approximately 20% of people die in the year following hip fracture, due to complications including blood clots related to immobility, pneumonia, and many other reasons.
The total cost to the U.S. health system for bone fractures due to osteopenia and osteoporosis was estimated at $17 billion in 2005. Due to the aging population, the number of hip fractures, and the related costs, could double or triple by 2040.
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