A Look at the Symptoms of Osteopenia
Osteopenia is a condition wherein there is a decreased amount of both phosphorus and calcium in the bone that causes these structures to become weak and brittle and increasing the risk for fractures or broken bones. This simply refers to the bone mineral density (BMD) of the body that is lower than the normal BMD yet not too low to be classified as osteoporosis. BMD is the measurement of the level of bone minerals wherein it shows how strong and dense the bones are. Individuals who have low levels of BMD compared to the normal peak BMD are said to have this condition, osteopenia. However, it should be clearly stated that osteopenia is a bodily condition of having low peak BMD, and should not be considered as a disease like osteoporosis. Having this condition means that as time passes, there is a greater risk of developing very low BMD that leads to the condition of osteoporosis.
In the last 90 days of pregnancy, there are large amounts of phosphorus and calcium that are being transferred from the mother to the baby in order for the development and growth of the bones of the latter individual.
Premature infants are more prone to this condition due to the fact they might not receive the right amount of minerals –calcium and phosphorus—that their bodies need in order to form strong bones. The fetal activity increases in the womb during the last three months of pregnancy, making this activity highly significant for the development of bones. Majority of premature infants have limited physical activity that in turn can contribute in having weak bones. Aside from that, studies have shown that very premature babies (those who were born five to seven months only) lose more phosphorus in their urine than babies who were born full term.
Another factor that can contribute to this condition is the lack of vitamin D. This essential vitamin is needed by the body in absorbing calcium from the kidneys and intestines. When infants do not receive sufficient amount of vitamin D, both calcium and phosphorus will not be absorbed properly. Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to a liver problem known as cholestasis. Steroids and diuretics can also lead to low amount of calcium levels.
Osteopenia Risk Factors and Symptoms
Premature infants who were born 30 weeks earlier are at higher risk of having the condition of osteopenia. There no physical symptoms for those who have milder cases of osteopenia, however, for those with severe osteopenia, swelling of an arm or leg because of an unknown fracture as well as having a decreased movement, can be observed.
Most individuals find out that they are already experiencing this condition during their healthcare check-up, instead of experiencing common osteopenia symptoms. Health experts suggest that females should undergo a standard bone thickness examine once they reach the perimenopause stage, wherein there is a menstrual irregularity that happens normally in between 45 to 55 years old. This stage can occur earlier when the individual is in danger from the usage of certain drugs. For males, they are recommended to undergo bone thickness analyze at age 70.
Signs and Tests
The condition of osteopenia in premature infants is more difficult to diagnose than in adults. X-rays, ultrasound, and blood tests to check the levels of phosphorus, calcium, and alkaline phosphatase protein, are the most common tests used to monitor and to diagnose osteopenia of prematurity.
Therapies can also be applied to help improve the bone strength in infants, which include the following:
- Vitamin D supplementation for babies with liver problems
- Special premature formulas (when breast milk is not available)
- Calcium and phosphorus supplements, added to breast milk or IV fluids
Some of the common medical prognosis for this condition includes that by having an increased dietary intake of calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus, fractures can heal by their own with proper care. Studies have shown that very low-birth weight is one the major risk factor of developing osteopenia later in adult life. However, there is still no scientific treatment or prevention for osteopenia that is known.