Glossary of terms

Glossary of terms



Activities of daily living: Basic necessary skills to be independent such as bathing and dressing.

Amenorrhea: Absence of menstruation for 3 months or more, not due to pregnancy, may be due to overtraining and/or an eating disorder.

Anabolic agent: Medication, steroid hormone, or substance intended to build bone; examples are Forsteo (Teriparatide) and testosterone.

Anorexia nervosa: A disorder characterised by fear of becoming fat, thinking that their body is larger than it really is, severe weight loss, and an aversion to food. Commonly thought of as a young girl’s disease, it is now recognised in men and people of all ages.

Antiresorptive agents: Medications and substances that decrease bone resorption (bone breakdown).

Biochemical marker: Substances found in blood and urine that can be tested to determine the rate of bone turnover in a person.

Bisphosphonates: A group of anti-resorptive agents such as Actonel, Boniva, Aclasta and Fosamax, which help to slow the rate at which bone is broken down.

Body mass index (BMI): A measurement of body fat in adults, based on a person’s height and weight.

Bone mass: The density or quantity of bone.

Bone mineral density (BMD) tests (DXA / DEXA)This test is painless and is not claustrophobic, it is used to evaluate bone mineral density.

Bone modelling: A process that takes place in childhood and adolescence in which older bone is removed and is then replaced with new bone. For healthy bones during bone growth, the amount of new bone being formed should exceed the amount of old bone being broken down.

Bone remodelling: A process that occurs after peak bone mass is reached in early adulthood. Bone forming cells, respond to the cells that breakdown bone. When bone formation does not keep pace with bone breakdown, Osteoporosis occurs.

Bone turnover: This is the process of breaking down bone and new bone being formed in its place, that occurs throughout life. When bone is growing (during childhood through early adulthood) more bone is formed than is broken down. Later in life this process changes and more bone is lost then is formed.

Bulimia: An eating disorder that usually includes episodes of binge eating (eating very large amounts of food) and purging (forcing vomiting to get food out of the system). It can affect females and males.

Calcitonin: A hormone naturally secreted by the thyroid gland that make the osteoclasts less active, allowing for more bone formation to take place.

Calcium: A mineral essential for the production and function of bone. When daily amounts of calcium are not reached it is removed from bone. It is also vital for the proper functioning of muscles and nerves.

Central bones: Bones that are found in the main or central areas of the body, such as the spine, pelvis, and hip bone. These bones provide the best measures for determining bone mineral density.

Collagen: A protein substance used by osteoblasts to make new bone and keep teeth strong. It is found in connective tissue such as skin, ligaments, and tendons.

Contrast dye: A dye that is given orally or intravenously for the purposes of focusing certain types of imaging tests. This should not be taken within 2 weeks before having a bone mineral density test.

Cortisol: A steroid hormone secreted by the adrenal glands that regulates bone growth. If a person’s levels of cortisol are too high, bone loss will occur.

Disability: A physical or mental impairment that can cause a person to have difficulty performing certain activities of daily living.

Dowager’s hump: Also known as a Kyphosis. This is when the bones in the spine collapse and a hump develops on the upper back.

DXA / DEXA (Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry)A test that measures bone mineral density in the hips and spine. A DXA test uses a form of x-ray imaging that is analysed through a computer to give results in the terms of T-scores and Z-scores. It is considered the gold standard for measuring bone loss and diagnosing Osteoporosis.

Endometriosis: A painful condition characterised by the abnormal presence of endometrial (uterine lining) tissue outside the uterus, such as on the ovary, colon, or bladder.

Oestrogen: Known as a female sex hormone although it is also found in men in small amounts; primarily secreted by the ovary in response to follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and is also made in body tissues in both men and women.

Oestrogen therapy (HRT): Oestrogen and progestogen-containing products that are used in the treatment of perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. Oestrogen taken by itself for the treatment of menopausal symptoms is only for women who have had their uterus removed.

Fracture: To break a bone.

Fragility fracture/ Low trauma fracture/ Osteoporotic fractureTerm used to describe a fracture that occurs with very little trauma or force, from a standing position or less. A force that is usually not great enough to cause broken bones, usually indicating that the bone is weak.

Vertebral fracture/ Vertebral compression fracture/ Biconcave fracture/Crush fracture/Wedge fracture; are all names that can be used to describe fractures in a person’s back.

Stress fracture: usually biomechanical but can be a red flag to indicate that bone loss is present, especially in athletes who overtrain and/or have an eating disorder.

Glucocorticoid induced Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis caused by taking glucocorticoids (commonly called steroids), a class of medication taken for their anti-inflammatory effects on illnesses, such as Rheumatoid arthritis, Asthma, Lupus and Crohn’s disease.

Gluten intolerance/Sensitive: When a person has symptoms of Coeliac disease but their tests for Coeliac disease are negative, but/ however when the person cuts down on Gluten and/or wheat the symptoms decline. It can cause intestinal absorption problems.

Growth hormone: Hormone secreted by the pituitary gland and especially important for bone growth during puberty.

Hip protector: A protective pad worn on the hips that may prevent a hip fracture in frail senior citizens.

Hot flushes: Sensations of heat, occurring during perimenopause and often well into post-menopause, that begin at the head and can spread over the entire body. This occurs with an increase in luteinising hormone. This is not a health hazard but it may be accompanied by sweating, and can cause significant discomfort, irritability, and can interfere with a person’s sleep.

Hypogonadism: Inadequate testicular or ovarian function, causing low levels of testosterone or oestrogen.

Hysterectomy: Removal of the uterus.

Induced menopause: Permanent menopause that is not natural; can be caused because of removal of the ovaries (surgical), chemotherapy, or radiation to the pelvis.

Kyphoplasty: A surgical procedure used to relieve pain of VCFs (Vertebral compression fractures), which combines vertebroplasty and angioplasty by placing a balloon in the fractured vertebra and filling it with a cement-like substance.

Kyphosis: A deformity of the spine that develops when the front edges of the bones of the spine collapse due to Osteoporosis; also called “Dowager’s Hump”.

Lactose intolerance: Occurs when the small intestine does not make enough lactase, the enzyme required to break down the lactose (milk sugar) in milk products before they enter the large intestine. It can cause bloating, pain, gas, and diarrhoea.

Low trauma fracture: Term used to describe a fracture that occurs with very little trauma or force or from a standing position or less. In those with healthy bones a fracture would not occur, therefore if it does happen, it is a sign of possible Osteoporosis.

Menopause: The specific point in time occurring after twelve consecutive months without a menstrual period, that does not have another identifiable cause such as an illness or a medication.

Osteoporotic fracture: Term used to describe a fracture that occurs with very little trauma or force and the person has low bone density.

Night sweats: Sweating that occurs at night resulting from hot flushes during perimenopause and post menopause.

Obesity: Condition of being severely overweight based on a body mass index greater than 30 and associated with many health problems.

Osteoarthritis: Inflammation and stiffness of the joints that usually occurs in older persons, because of deterioration of the cartilage around the joints. Many people with Osteoporosis have Osteoarthritis BUT they are two totally different diseases.

Osteoblasts: Cells that cause bone formation.

Osteoclast: Cells that cause bone breakdown.

Osteomalacia: A softening of bones caused by a vitamin D deficiency because of diet or ailments that impair normal vitamin D absorption. It can cause bone pain, leg deformities, and fractures and it can also be called adult rickets.

Osteopenia: The early stages of Osteoporosis and can only be diagnosed by a DXA scan. There is low bone density, but not to the same degree as Osteoporosis. Osteopenia means bones (osteo) are lacking (penia). It is a T-score between -1.0 and -2.49 on a DXA scan

Osteoporosis: The most common bone disease in the world in which bones become less dense, lose strength, and are more likely to break (fracture). Osteoporosis means bones (osteo) with holes (porosis).

Paget’s disease: Causes large, deformed bones/ causes deformity in large bones due to the excessive breakdown and formation of bone. Although totally unrelated to Osteoporosis, it can occur with Osteoporosis in the same bones.

Parathyroid hormone (PTH): A hormone secreted by the parathyroid glands. It assists in the regulation of calcium by promoting the absorption of calcium from the intestine and reducing the loss of calcium through urine excretion.

NOTE: It is the active ingredient in Forsteo, a medication and anabolic agent used to treat severe Osteoporosis.

Peak bone mass: The highest amount of bone present in the human body, usually obtained by early adulthood.

Pilates: A type of activity for muscles that promotes strength and flexibility.

Post menopause: The time following menopause, during which oestrogen loss is significant and it is when women lose excessive amounts of bone which causes Osteoporosis.

Premature menopause: Permanent menopause occurring in women younger than 45 years of age and refers to women who have induced or surgical menopause.

Prescription medication: An instruction from a health care professional, who is licensed to provide written authorisation of medications or devices to be issued by a pharmacy.

QCT (quantitative computed tomography): Type of radiography that uses CT scan technology to measure the bone density in the spine.

Resorption: Process by the osteoclasts of breaking down bone.

Secondary Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis at any age resulting from illnesses, conditions, or medications that cause bone loss.

Sedentary lifestyle: A way of living that involves little or no exercise.

SERMs (Selective Oestrogen Receptor Modulators): Antiresorptive medications that help to reduce bone loss by their positive estrogenic effects. All SERMS tend to increase hot flushes.

Sex hormones: A chemical substance formed in one organ or part of the body that can alter the function or structure of another organ, tissue, or various numbers of them; examples are oestrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, which stimulate bone growth.

Standard deviation: A mathematical measure that indicates how far or how near something is to the mean (average).

Supplements: Additional doses of vitamins, minerals, or other dietary substances; usually taken to enhance a person’s diet, to get the recommended amount for the person’s age, gender, and medical conditions.

Tai chi: A form of exercise that combines meditation, flexibility, and balance training.

Testosterones: A steroid hormone formed by the testes in males and, to a far lesser degree, by the ovary and adrenal glands in women. It is responsible for male characteristics such as a deep voice and facial hair and it is important for normal sexual development and function, as well as normal bone development in both men and women.

Thyroid hormones: Secreted by the thyroid gland, these natural chemicals regulate the body’s metabolism and help to control the rate of bone remodelling; too much can cause bone loss.

Total hysterectomy:” A total hysterectomy” is the removal of the uterus ovaries and fallopian tubes.

T-score: DXA scan results in adults are known as T scores. They can be positive or a negative number. They represent the number of standard deviations that is calculated based on a comparison between your bone mineral density with that of healthy young adults. T scores between -1.0 and -2.49 indicate osteopenia; T scores of -2.5 or higher indicate Osteoporosis.

Vertebrae: Individual bones of the spine. Fractures of these bones are very common in people with bone loss.

Vertebral compression fracture (VCF): A fracture of the body of a vertebra (spine bone) that collapses and makes it thinner and weaker. Usually results from Osteoporosis but can also result from complications of cancer or some other type of injury.

Vertebral fracture: See vertebral compression fracture.

Vertebroplasty: A non-surgical procedure that involves injecting a cement-like substance into the fractured vertebra to stabilise it and relieve pain.

Vitamin D: Also known as calciferol which is a hormone. It is a nutrient important for absorbing and regulating calcium and phosphorus levels. Sunlight, fortified products, or supplements are usually necessary to get the required daily vitamin D amounts.

Weight-bearing exercise: Types of activity that place weight on certain bones; necessary for bone growth; examples are walking, dancing, and stair-climbing.

Z-score: DXA scan results in children and premenopausal women are measured in Z scores. Your bone mineral density is compared with individuals of the same age, gender, and ethnicity. It is used in children and premenopausal women.