Osteoporosis and thyroid disorders

Osteoporosis is a condition whereby our bones become fragile and are more likely to break. The common areas for breakage are the wrist, spine and hip. Although osteoporosis can be treated, it is better to prevent it in the first place.

Two types of cells are constantly at work in our bones to allow the skeleton to grow and repair damages such as fractures. Osteoclasts break down the bone while osteoblasts build it up again. Each cycle turnover normally takes 200 days. Many factors influence this process of bone replacement, which includes hormones, the amount of exercise one does and the amount of vitamin D and calcium in our diet.

All men and women are at risk for osteoporosis. Everyone starts to lose some bone density from the age of 35 and this is just the normal ageing process. It is more common, however, in women after menopause as they stop producing estrogen, a hormone that protects the bones. Bone can be lost more rapidly over five to 10 years, following menopause.

The thyroid hormone thyroxine affects the rate at which bone is replaced. Too much thyroxine in your body speeds up the rate at which bone is lost. If this happens too fast, the osteoblasts may not be able to replace the bone loss quickly enough.

If the thyroxine level in our body remains too high for a long period, or the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level in our body remains too low for a long period, then there is a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

If one suffers from hyperthyroidism, the first step is to treat overactivity. Once the level of thyroid hormone in our body has been reduced to normal levels, the rate of bone loss will no longer occur so rapidly and bone strength may improve.

Some people, however, will have persistent bone loss, with or without thyroid disease, and postmenopausal women are at particularly high risk of this. If one has prolonged untreated hyperthyroidism as well as other risk factors for osteoporosis and bone fractures, a bone mineral density scan two to three years after initiating thyroid treatment will help assess the risk. If a bone density scan shows osteoporosis, then this can be treated with medication.

An underactive thyroid is not, in itself, a risk factor for osteoporosis, but if you are prescribed levothyroxine to increase your thyroid levels to a normal range, you should have regular blood tests, at least once a year, to ensure your thyroid hormone levels are not too high.

One can help maintain healthy bones by eating a well-balanced diet containing calcium-rich foods, maintaining normal vitamin D levels, avoiding smoking, keeping alcohol drinking to within recommended limits, exercising regularly and spending 10-20 minutes every day in the sunshine, which is the best source for providing vitamin D.

Article submitted by the HPA Group