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Several factors are involved in the development of osteoporosis. Some of them can be modified, such as smoking, whereas others cannot, such as age, gender or the presence of certain diseases. It is important to concentrate on the modifiable factors as they can be corrected in order to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Non-modifiable risk factors
The main risk factors for suffering an osteoporosis-related fracture are age, a medical history of prior fractures and a low bone density, as determined by bone density scans. Due to the progressive deterioration of bone tissue as we grow older, age is a significant factor in the development of fractures. It is well-known that the frequency of hip fractures, a fracture typically associated with osteoporosis, increases with age.
Furthermore, it is important to note that patients who suffer a vertebral fracture are exposed to a greater risk of a second vertebral fracture occurring within one year. There is also an increased chance of suffering a second fracture within the first year after a wrist or hip fracture. Low bone mass, identified by bone densitometry, is also associated with a greater risk of fractures; as bone mass decreases, the risk of fracture increases.
In over half of cases, osteoporosis is associated with the patient's age and the menopause. However, around one third of patients treated in rheumatology may also be going through other processes besides the menopause. Therefore the term secondary osteoporosis exists and is defined as osteoporosis associated with certain diseases, surgical interventions or treatments, e.g., coeliac disease or conditions that affect the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) or parathyroid glands (hyperparathyroidism), treatment with glucocorticoids, etc.