Osteoporosis Glossary

Actonel
Brand name for risedronate. Medication for osteoporosis.
Alendronate
Medication used to treat osteoporosis. Part of the class of drugs called bisphosphonates. Sold under brand name Fosamax and also available as a generic.
Bisphosphonate
Class of chemical compounds used as osteoporosis medicines. They slow the reabsorption of minerals into the bloodstream.
Bone Density/Bone Mass
Weight per unit volume in the bone. Highly related to strength of the bones. Easier to measure than strength, so osteoporosis diagnosis keys on this factor. True densities as used in science are mass or weight per unit volume. Bone density as used in medicine is expressed in grams (mass) per square centimeter (area).
Bone Mineral Content (BMC)
Inorganic mineral mass per unit volume in the bone. Correlated with bone mineral density.
Bone mineral density (BMD) test
Diagnostic test physicians use to find osteoporosis. Very commonly employed test, relatively inexpensive and non-invasive, used to determine if a person is at risk for fractures. Also used to measure effectiveness of treatment.
Calcitonin
Hormone secreted by the thyroid gland and also given medically as a treatment for osteoporosis.Increases bone density and reduces pain associated with fractures. Stops bone calcium from being dissolved into the blood. Not used routinely for treatment of osteoporosis.
Calcium
Mineral bone constituent, and important nutrient.
Cancellous bone
Another term for trabecular bone.
Cartilage
Tissue in the skeletal system. Frequently found at the end of bones; it is allows bones to rub against each other without damaging the hard parts of the bone. Cartilage is stretchy and tough and contributes to bone flexibility.
Cholecalciferol
Vitamin D3. A secosteroid. Also called Calcitriol. Important in treatment of osteoporosis because it aids in intestinal absorption of calcium. Sometimes doctors give Vitamin D3 to increase the patient’s serum calcium levels.
Collagen
Type of protein that forms fibers and forms much of the structure of the body, including bones. There are type I, type 2, and type 3 collagen in the body It is mostly type 1 in bones.
Compression fracture
An injury to the spine in which one or more vertebrae collapse. Although compression fractures can be caused by accidents, they are more commonly found in osteoporosis patients. Can be treated by vertebroplasty if the pain is severe.Also treated by regular osteoporosis treatment
Cortical bone
One of the two broad types of bone (the other is cancellous bone) The solid bone that is on the outside of bones.
DXA or DEXA
Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. Most often used diagnostic test for osteoporosis. Uses X-Rays at low intensity. Usually done on hip or spine or wrist bones.
Estrogen
Group of body chemicals generally (although simplistically) considered the female sex hormone. In the context of osteoporosis, known for helping bone density stay high.
Evista
The brand name for raloxifene, a medicine used to treat osteoporosis.
Fractures
Broken bones.
Fosamax
The brand name for alendronate, a medicine used to treat osteoproosis.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Treatment sometimes given to women to increase estrogen levels after menopause. Among other goals, this therapy can slow the rate of bone loss. This treatment is not used as often as it once was. Also called estrogen replacement therapy.
Heel Test
Ultrasound screening of foot, hand, finger, or wrist to determine bone density.
Hypercalcemia
Medical condition where calcium levels in the bloodstream are higher than normal.
Hypocalcemia
Medical condition where calcium levels in the bloodstream are lower than normal.
Interleukins
Body chemicals that are part of the immune system. Play a part in bone resorption.
Kyphotic curve
Abnormal concave curving of the spinal cord. Also called hyperkyphosis when the curvature occurs in the thoracic part of the spine – this in particular is a sign of osteoporosis. Makes people look like they have a hump in their backs. The other kind of spinal curve is called lordotic, but this type is generally not associated with osteoporosis.
Kyphoplastyn
A treatment for kyphotic curves due to compression fractures. Considered a major improvement in osteoporosis care, this procedure can stabilize fractures, relieve pain, and actually make the patient taller. See our page on kyphoplasty
Ossification
The overall physiological process of cartilage converting into hard bone.
Osteoblastogenesis
Bone formation by deposition of minerals.
Osteoblasts
The builder cells in bone that collect minerals and secrete the bony mass.
Osteoclastogenesis
Bone resorption. Regular part of the bone remodeling process.
Osteoclasts
Big cells with multiple nuclei that play an important part in living bone by dissolving bone minerals.
Osteocytes
Cells inside ossified bone. Derived from osteoblasts.Surrounded by minerals.
Osteoimmunology
Field of study concerned with the interaction between the immune system and the bone (skeletal) system.
Osteomalacia
Insufficient mineralization of bones, usually caused by low vitamin D levels.
Osteopenia
Lower than average bone density, but not so low that the patient is diagnosed with osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis
A clinical disease in which the patient’s bones become fragile and low density, resulting in an increased risk of fracture.
Parathyroid hormone (PTH)
Regulates the level of calcium in the blood and hence plays a part in bone density and bone diseases. A synthetic parathyroid hormone, teriparatide, is used to treat osteoporosis.
Periosteum
Membrane that covers the outside of bones (except for the ends of long bones).The counterpart to endosteum.
Phosphate
A major bone mineral.
Raloxifene
A Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator medicine used to treat osteoporosis. Sold under the brand name is Evista.
Resorption
Dissolving of boney tissue out of the bone and into the bloodstream. The osteoclasts are bone cells that carry out this function.
Rheumatologist
Doctors that specialize in diseases of joints and connective tissues. Sometime get involved in osteoporosis cases, especially difficult or advanced ones. A general practitioner can usually handle most osteoporosis cases.
Rickets
Aka osteomalacia. Insufficient mineralization of bones, usually caused by low vitamin D levels.
Risedronate
A bisphosphonate drug for osteoporosis sold under the name Actonel.
Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs)
A class of chemical compounds that works on estrogen receptors. Used in treatment of osteoporosis.
Spinal column
the spine or the backbone. Made of 33 interlocking bones called vertebrae. The topmost section is called the cervical, followed by the thoracic (longest section in chest), the lumbar, and sacrum, and the coccyx.
Steroid-induced osteoporosis
Osteoporosis resulting from use of glucocorticosteroids over a long period of time. Corticosteroids are used as medicines. More on this.
T-score
A statistical measure of bone density, indicating the number of standard deviations in difference from the mean of bone densities of 30-year old people of the same sex. The main indicator in diagnosis of osteoporosis today.
Thyroid hormone
A major body hormone important in regulation of metabolism.Too much can result in bone loss.
Trabecular bone
Spongy Bone – inside bone
Vertebrae
Components of spine and frequent trouble spots for patients with osteoporosis. There are 33 vertebrae.
Vertebroplasty
Surgical injection of cement to the spinal cord to stabilize fractures. Often paired with kyphoplasty for treatment of compression fractures. See page on Vertebroplasty
Z-score
A statistical measure of bone density, indicating the number of standard deviations in difference from the mean of bone densities people of the same sex and age as the patient. A key metric in the diagnosis of osteoporosis.

 

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Protect Your Bones

1) Exercise (ideally including some resistance exercise to build strength.)

2) Eat a healthy diet. Pay special attention to your daily requirement for Vitamin D and calcium.

3) Don't smoke and avoid excessive alcohol.

4) Follow your doctor's advice and get bone density tests as he or she suggests.

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