Our skeletal system consists of 206 bones. Those bones connected with a network of ligaments, tendons, and cartilage in between, helps us perform vital functions.
Bones help us with functions like movement, protection, blood cell production, calcium storage, support, and endocrine regulation. That makes bones vital for our survivability.
When we are born, we have 270 bones. However, these bones fuse together as the body develops and we reach the number of 206 bones by the time adulthood hits.
There are variations of the skeleton of a male and a female adult. Those variations are primarily to accommodate childbirth, with the female pelvis being flatter, more rounded, and proportionally larger.
Bones become brittle when outside of the body. However, they are very much alive inside the body. And as all living creatures and things, bones are susceptible to skeletal system diseases.
They are fed by a network of blood vessels from the circulatory system, and nerves from the nervous system.
To understand the skeletal system diseases, we need to look at the tissue types inside the bone and the anatomy of a bone. A bone is made out of a compact bone, and spongy bone.
The compact bone is the hard and dense tissue making the outer layer of most bones. It is the main shaft of long bones. Nerves and blood vessels live inside the compact bone.
The spongy bone is the is a tissue made of smaller plates filled with red bone marrow. Found at the end of long bones, the spongy bone is the head of the femur. It is also found at the center of other bones.
Diagnosis of a disease
How do we diagnose skeletal system diseases?
You can pay attention to the symptoms, but unlike muscle sprains, wounds, and similar conditions, skeletal system diseases require a more in depth testing.
There are four diagnostic tools used to detect skeletal system diseases. Those are X-ray, an MRI, arthroscopy, and bone density test. If a physician suspects bone cancer, he might also recommend bone scan and bone marrow biopsy.
Bones are prone to aging, and damage as we age. In fact, some doctors say that 90% of people will experience lower back pain at some point in their life due to weaker bones. With that in mind, what are the primary skeletal system diseases and conditions? Let’s break them down.
Diseases of the skeletal system
Osteoporosis is a disease where increased bone weakness increases the risk of a broken bone. It is a prevalent disease, targeting elderly people due to aging bones.
The disease results in loss of bone tissue, and it is the most common reason for a broken bone among elderly people. Common bones that break include the bones of the forearm, the hip, and the vertebrae in the spine. There are usually no symptoms until a bone breaks.
There is no cure for osteoporosis, but there are ways to prevent one of the most common skeletal system diseases. In some cases, patients even manage to improve bone density and reverse the disorder to some degree. The key is getting enough calcium and vitamin D.
A disease that is very similar to osteoporis, yet, different. Osteomalacia is softening of the bones caused by impaired bone metabolism.
Similar to osteoporosis, the key reason is low levels of calcium, vitamin D, and phosphate. However, it can also occur due to resoprtion of calcium.
The difference is that osteomalacia results from a defect in the bone-building process, while osteoporosis develops in previously constructed bones.
Along with osteoporosis, arthritis is the most common of the skeletal system diseases. A group of more than 100 inflammatory diseases, arthritis can damage joints and surrounding structures.
The disease can attack joint capsules, joints, surrounding tissue, and throughout the entire body. In most cases, it appears on the neck, shoulders, lower back, hip, hands, and knees.
A carefully examined history and a physical exam is needed to diagnose the disease. Because there are different types of arthritis, treatment depends on the type.
A side to side curve in the back or spine, scoliosis will create a pronounced “C” or “S” shape when viewed on an X-ray. In most cases, scoliosis becomes evident during adolescence, but some patients notice it much later in life.
There are common skeletal system diseases, and there are rare ones. Cancer falls into the latter category. Bone cancer can develop within the bones, or spread to the bones from another part of the body.
In the US, according to the American Cancer Society, bone cancer accounts for just 1% of all cancer types.
The malignancy arises in the bones and supporting structures, including the bone cartilage. Bone cancer, according to statistics, develops much sooner in life, usually in the 20s and 30s.
How to prevent skeletal system diseases?
Being that bones are literally the support system of our body, it is important to keep them strong and healthy.
With that in mind, sticking to a proper diet, avoiding some harmful habits, and implementing some lifestyle changes may very well protect your bones from skeletal system diseases.
There is plenty you do early in your life, especially in your teens, 20s, and 30s, to make sure that bones stay healthy later on down the line. If not, you will definitely experience some of the skeletal system diseases later in life.
Here is what you can do early in life.
- Improve calcium consumption, as calcium is essential for proper development of bones and teeth. Calcium also helps with proper muscle function, and much more. The best way to up your calcium consumption is to consume calcium-rich foods and pair them with foods high in vitamin D and magnesium. These two minerals work together to improve bone health
- Speaking of vitamins and minerals, vitamin D is essential. Without vitamin D, your body cannot absorb calcium. There are plenty of vitamin D rich foods, but the simplest way to up this vitamin is to get out on the sun
- Your body also needs a healthy dose of vitamin K to boost bone density. This vitamin helps your body produce proteins for healthy bones. Vitamin K also helps with calcium absorption, in the same way as vitamin D does
- An underrated mineral for bone health is potassium. It is not a mineral known for improving bone health. But potassium helps the nerves and muscles communicate, and can neutralize acids that remove calcium from the body. And since you need more calcium, that means potassium helps your body keep as much of the calcium content as possible
- Quit harmful habits like smoking, drinking alcohol, and drinking coffee. Caffeine, for example, has bone health benefits, but too much of it can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Alcohol can cause bone loss, and smoking prevents the body from absorbing calcium and decreases bone mass
- As for healthy habits, make exercise a priority. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to keep your bones strong and healthy. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the highest risk factors for osteoporosis. Running, walking, skiing, hiking, swimming, and similar exercises keep your bones stronger and healthier
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