Can osteoporosis occur at a young age?

Taking care of bones should be prioritized for people of all ages. Due to the hectic lifestyle and everyday activities, bones are more susceptible to conditions like osteoporosis. However, osteoporosis is not just for adults as it can also affect young people and children. This condition in children is called juvenile osteoporosis.

Juvenile osteoporosis is a skeletal condition characterized by bone weakening beginning in childhood. A lack of calcium and other minerals in the bones causes brittleness and leaves bones prone to fractures. Multiple fractures in the long bones of the arms and legs are common in affected patients, mainly where new bone grows. They also have fractures in the spine’s bones, leading to vertebral collapse. Multiple fractures can cause bone stiffness and limited mobility.

What causes juvenile osteoporosis?

Juvenile osteoporosis is usually caused by other medical issues, although it may also result from a hereditary problem known as secondary osteoporosis.

Idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis is an uncommon type of osteoporosis with an unclear source of origin. In some cases, certain medications could be the source of the problem. Medical diseases like juvenile idiopathic arthritis, osteogenesis imperfecta, diabetes, renal illness, hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, cystic fibrosis, and anorexia nervosa can also cause juvenile osteoporosis.

Certain medications, cancer therapies, anticonvulsant medications (used to treat epilepsy), or corticosteroids (used to treat a wide range of conditions, including arthritis and asthma) might also lead to children developing this condition.

An inadequate diet or excessive activity that disrupts the menstrual cycle are lifestyle issues. Children who are bedridden or have long periods of immobility are more likely to develop juvenile osteoporosis because they cannot engage in weight-bearing exercises that promote bone density. Here are a few early warnings to keep an eye out for:

People typically neglect persistent muscular discomfort and cramps, but this can be a well-known early indication of juvenile osteoporosis.

Reduced grip strength is associated with decreased bone density, resulting in greater downward force in the clutch and an increased risk of falling and suffering from an osteoporotic fracture.

Receding gums can be one of the initial signs of various diseases, including bone fragility. When the jaws start to lose bone, the gums begin to decrease. As a result, having the gums checked and inspected regularly is critical.

One of the simplest methods to diagnose this problem early is measuring nail strength. Broken nails may be an early sign of osteoporosis.

For juvenile osteoporosis, there is no proven medical or surgical treatment. As the illness subsides on its own with time, no treatment is necessary in most cases. However, early detection of juvenile osteoporosis is critical to safeguard the child’s spine and other crucial bones from a fracture in the future.

Physical therapy, crutches, avoidance of dangerous weight-bearing activities, and other forms of supportive treatment are advised. A well-balanced diet high in calcium and vitamin D is also essential. Drugs like bisphosphonates, anabolic steroids, and recombinant human growth hormones can be used to treat severe, long-term instances of juvenile osteoporosis.

(The author is an orthopedic surgeon.)

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