Osteoporosis is a term that describes the loss of calcium from bones. Bones with osteoporosis are thin bones. The term “osteoporosis” can be broken down as: osteo = bone, porosis = porous (full of holes). Thus a bone that has osteoporosis is full of holes, thin, and less dense than it should be.
Bones with osteoporosis can ache and hurt. Bones with osteoporosis are fragile bones which are much more susceptible to fractures and breaks. As is shown in our animation, bone is a living tissue (which is why it can heal after it has been broken) that stores calcium. It is the calcium that makes our bones hard and strong. The calcium level in our blood and bones is regulated by the parathyroid glands. We store many pounds (kilograms) of calcium in our bones, and nearly all of this calcium is readily available to the rest of the body at the request of the parathyroid glands. When one (or more) of the parathyroid glands are overactive in a patient with hyperparathyroidism, our bones release calcium constantly into the blood stream because of the excess parathyroid hormone (PTH). Thus all patients with hyperparathyroidism will eventually develop osteoporosis. If the parathyroid tumor is not removed in a timely fashion, patients can develop severe osteoporosis and can often have awful bone pain (usually hip or back). This bone pain is the first symptom of hyperparathyroidism to go away once the parathyroid tumor has been removed, usually occurring within an hour or two. This is often dramatic and amazing to watch. Note that men with hyperparathyroidism get osteoporosis just like women.
Patients with hyperparathyroidism typically develop osteoporosis that is worse (or much worse) than other people their age. Thus, any person with bad osteoporosis, or osteoporosis at an early age should be tested for hyperparathyroidism. The good news is that the osteoporosis due to a parathyroid tumor (and excess PTH) is typically much more reversible than osteoporosis due to advanced age or menopause.
It is important to note that the medications (drugs) that are often given for the treatment of osteoporosis do not work well (or at all) in persons who have hyperparathyroidism. These medications are not helpful unless the parathyroid tumor has been removed. Furthermore, taking an osteoporosis drug is not an appropriate alternative to surgical removal of the parathyroid tumor and cannot be used to delay or avoid parathyroid surgery. If you have hyperparathyroidism, then the typical medications given for osteoporosis usually will not help—the osteoporosis will typically continue to worsen until the parathyroid disease is cured. This is also true for the drug “Sensipar” (cinacalcet), which has been shown to make osteoporosis worse in some patients with primary hyperparathyroidism. There are no drugs currently available that can treat or prevent osteoporosis in patients with hyperparathyroidism. After the disease has been cured (the parathyroid tumor removed), then these drugs may be helpful in some people.
For more detailed information on this topic: http://www.parathyroid.com/osteoporosis.htm