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Foot pain may be forerunner of osteoporosis development, surgeon says

Posted On Thu, October 17, 2013

Osteoporosis, a bone thinning disease that affects millions of Americans as they grow older, is not a condition that presents itself in an obvious way. However, according to a San Antonio-based surgeon, a telling sign that there may be a problem is if individuals feel ongoing foot pain for unexplained reasons.

Eddie Davis, physician and long-time member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, recently noted that one of the reasons why foot pain is so often a telling indicator of osteoporosis is because of the density of the metatarsals. This is often made evident after experiencing a foot fracture.

"Because the bones are in a weakened state, normal weight-bearing actions like walking can cause the bones in the foot to break," said Davis. "In fact, many patients visit their foot and ankle surgeon suffering from foot pain only to find out they actually have a stress fracture, without having experienced an injury."

He also noted that traditionally, osteoporosis affects women who are over the age of 50. But it also impacts people who are much younger than this. As a result, individuals will often ignore the pain, assuming that it isn't anything significant and will pass on its own.

"The best advice is, don't ignore foot pain of any type," said Davis. "Early intervention can make all the difference in your treatment and recovery."

Treatments available that can diagnose osteoporosis early on
He added that thanks to some significant advancements in medical technology and preventive treatment, foot and ankle surgeons are often successfully able to diagnose osteoporosis before the physical symptoms begin to present themselves, through the use of bone densitometry tests. These procedures measure the amount of calcium that's found in the bones, the mineral that gives bones their hardness. Davis stressed that when people go to see their doctor for their yearly physical, they might want to ask their physician if they can get a referral to have one of these tests performed.

"Women should make sure bone densitometry tests are part of their wellness examinations when indicated by their physicians," said Davis.

Though some test procedures have to be paid for out of pocket, treatments like this may be covered by insurers, which naturally affects health insurance rates.

According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, there are about 9 million fractures that occur each year around the world, all of them attributable the bone thinning disease. Additionally, among women, it affects about 200 million people and is especially prevalent in Japan, the U.S. and parts of Europe.

Osteoporosis is estimated to become more prevalent in the coming years. IOF statistics show that by 2015, the worldwide incidence of hip fractures among men will rise an estimated 310 percent, and by 240 percent among women.

There are several risk factors associated with osteoporosis development, including family history, low body mass, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol use and prolonged use of corticosteroids, according to IOF.

Despite the risk, there are ways in which both men and women can reduce their chances of being affected by osteoporosis. Exercise is one of the best ways of reducing the threat, as physical activity naturally improves the hardness and density of bones. This is particularly true when people are in their adolescence. Nutrition plays a major role as well. Bone-promoting foods are those that are rich in calcium, such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Sources of vitamin D - such as direct sunlight and proteins like salmon - also help strengthen the bones.

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