The relationship between thyroid disease and osteoporosis is complex. Hyperthyroidism, which causes excess levels of thyroid hormone, can increase the rate of bone loss.
Thyroid hormones play a crucial role in maintaining bone health, and disruptions in thyroid function can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis.
In osteoporosis, the bones become weak and brittle, making them more likely to fracture. It happens when the body loses too much bone, or the cells that make bone (osteoblasts) cannot replace it quickly enough.
Read on to learn more about the link between hyperthyroidism and osteoporosis.
Thyroid hormones play a significant role in maintaining bone density and strength. If a person has high levels of thyroid hormone, as seen in hyperthyroidism, they may have higher rates of bone loss.
In people with hyperthyroidism, osteoblasts may not be able to replicate quickly enough. They cannot keep up with bone loss, so a person has decreased bone density. As a result, the individual has an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.
Furthermore, people with low levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) have an increased risk of osteoporosis.
The pituitary gland in the brain produces TSH to regulate thyroid gland function. It stimulates the thyroid gland to produce and release thyroid hormones, such as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland releases high amounts of these hormones, leading to elevated blood levels of T3 and T4. Because T3 and T4 levels are already high, the pituitary gland reduces its TSH production to avoid further stimulating the thyroid gland. As a result, people with hyperthyroidism have low TSH.
However, a person with low TSH levels may lose bone more quickly than someone with normal TSH levels, even if their blood thyroxine measurement is normal.
Although experts recognize a link between thyroid disease and osteoporosis, the exact mechanisms are still being researched.
- older age
- being a woman
- a history of falls
- white ethnicity
- prior fractures
- family history of osteoporosis
In addition, there are other risk factors that a person may be able to manage:
- poor nutrient absorption
- lack of physical activity
- extreme weight loss
- excessive alcohol consumption
- air pollution
Some medical conditions and treatments can contribute to a person’s risk of osteoporosis, known as secondary causes. In addition to hyperthyroidism, they include:
- long-term corticosteroid use
- chronic liver disease
- inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis
- vitamin D deficiency
- kidney disease
- heart disease
Although having one or more of these risk factors may increase an individual’s likelihood of developing osteoporosis, it does not mean they will definitely have it. However, recognizing the risk factors can help people make lifestyle modifications or seek medical attention to minimize their risk of osteoporosis.
A person can take steps to
They include the following:
- Consuming calcium and vitamin D: Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake are essential for strong bones. Foods rich in calcium include dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified foods, and people can get vitamin D from oily fish and fortified foods. Doctors may recommend supplements for people who do not get enough of these nutrients in their diets.
- Practicing weight-bearing exercise: Regular weight-bearing physical activity is essential for bone health. Examples include walking, jogging, dancing, and weight training.
- Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol: Both smoking and consuming alcohol can increase the risk of osteoporosis. Therefore, it is a good idea to avoid or limit them.
- Preventing falls: Falls are a major risk factor for fractures in individuals with osteoporosis. Taking steps to prevent falls, such as removing trip hazards and installing handrails, can reduce this risk.
- Taking medication: Several medications can treat or prevent osteoporosis, including bisphosphonates, hormone therapy, and denosumab (Prolia). They work by slowing bone loss or promoting bone formation.
Furthermore, if a person has hyperthyroidism, their doctor may recommend medications, radioactive iodine therapy, or surgery to manage the condition.
Osteoporosis can worsen if not managed. Therefore, individuals with risk factors — such as a family history of the condition, low body weight, or use of certain medications — should discuss osteoporosis with a doctor.
If an individual has osteoporosis and experiences severe or persistent pain, loss of height, or suspected fractures, they should seek urgent medical attention.
Doctors typically recommend regular bone density testing and follow-up care for people with osteoporosis. This allows them to monitor the condition and ensure their treatment plan is effective.
If a person has hyperthyroidism, it is a good idea to be aware of the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis and to seek medical attention when necessary to improve overall bone health and quality of life.
Thyroid disease and osteoporosis are two medical conditions that can co-occur. Thyroid hormones play a crucial role in maintaining bone health, and disruptions in thyroid function can increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis.
Making lifestyle changes such as consuming adequate calcium and vitamin D, taking regular weight-bearing exercise, quitting smoking, and reducing fall risk can help reduce the likelihood of developing osteoporosis.
Anyone at risk of osteoporosis should seek their doctor’s advice. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to preventing the condition from worsening.