Sunday, October 14, 2007



Simple, humble, unassuming are probably the three most appropriate words one can use to describe Dr Usha Sriram. A graduate of the madras medical college and certified by the American board both in internal medicine and endocrinology, Dr Usha has over 25 years of experience in the field of endocrinology. She has a special interest in the field of women’s health and has done extensive research work on various aspects of women’s health. She is an executive committee member of the Indian society for bone and mineral research (ISBMR) and metabolic bone disorders- osteoporosis- in particular have been part of her specialization. 20th of October is world osteoporosis day and since Dr Usha feels that there isn’t enough awareness about this health problem in the society, it would be appropriate for her to share her views on this “bone thief” as she calls it.

“We celebrate 20th of October as world osteoporosis day, so that we can spread more awareness about this global problem” says Dr Usha. She says Osteoporosis is basically a disease which involves thinning of the bones due to various reasons and emphasizes that this is not exclusive to women; even men are prone to getting osteoporosis. It usually occurs in women after menopause, but some women are at an early risk if they face other health problems like having an early menopause, hormonal imbalances, family history and chronic medical conditions like diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, renal failure etc. Smoking and excessive use of alcohol also puts people at a risk of getting osteoporosis.

“The consequence of osteoporosis which we worry most about is fractures- hip fractures in particular, though spinal fractures are more common” says Dr Usha. And many times a fracture itself is the first symptom of osteoporosis, although some people lose height also. It is diagnosed by taking a good history of the patient and various bone density tests like the DEXA scan, x-rays and the QCT’s. All these measures are available in India. “X Rays may show thinning of the bones, but by that time 30% of the bone is already lost” rues Dr Usha. So it is important to diagnose it on time. Once diagnosed the patient is treated with the required medication like bisphosphonates, teriparatide, calcitonin and adequate calcium and vitamin D. Hormone replacement therapy is given only to women with premature menopause.

People diagnosed with osteoporosis should make sure they walk carefully; they don’t fall and hold on to the wall etc while walking on uneven surfaces. “People with osteoporotic fractures do not recover to their original level of functionality ,so it is very important to diagnose osteoporosis early and take the required precautions” says Dr Usha.

As more and more people are being diagnosed with metabolic bone disorders like osteoporosis, it is very important for children and young adults to take adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D in order to build strong bones. They should also be exposed to a good amount of physical activity in order to improve their muscle strength. As Dr Usha always says whatever bone strength you build in your youth, serves as a bank balance in your old age. And bone mass increases only upto the age of 20-25. So those are the years of our life when we have to build up the bone strength.

“Osteoporosis is a preventive problem, if public health measures for adequate nutrition, appropriate screening and proactive treatment measures are used” says Dr Usha, hoping that with spreading kind of awareness she will see more people with stronger bones!

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