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More MS news articles for May 2004

Men with MS at greater risk of osteoporosis

May 28th, 2004
Boston Cure Project

Osteoporosis, a reduction in bone mass density that increases the risk of bone fracture, is a major health concern for older women but can also occur in men. It is also a particular concern for people with MS because problems with balance, weakness, vision, etc. can lead to greater numbers of falls that could then produce a fracture. A team of scientists who had previously found that women with MS are at increased risk of osteoporosis wanted to see if the same was true for men with MS. They performed bone density scans in 40 male patients attending an MS clinic and found that 80% had a reduced bone mass in the lumbar spine and/or the neck of the femur (thigh bone). In addition, 21% of the subjects had suffered a fracture subsequent to being diagnosed with MS. Higher disability as measured via the EDSS was associated with greater bone loss; however, greater body weight as measured via BMI (body mass index) was found to be protective of bone density.

Exercise that applies mechanical loads to bones has previously been found to protect against osteoporosis. As expected, the scientists in this study found that inability to walk unassisted was associated with reduced bone density. However, the study also included twelve subjects able to walk without assistance, and over half of these also showed evidence of bone loss. Therefore, in addition to decreased mechanical loading, other MS risk factors or elements of the MS disease process itself may also contribute to loss of bone mass. None of the additional factors examined in this study (smoking, alcohol use, testoterone levels, vitamin D, or steroid or interferon-beta therapy) showed a clear relationship with bone loss, so the factors connecting MS and osteoporosis still need to be explored. Nevertheless, this study shows that both men and women with MS have a higher risk of bone loss and fracture, and should monitor and treat this condition accordingly.

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