How wrinkles may be a sign of osteoporosis

Whether we embrace them or botox the life out of them, wrinkles might be considered nothing more than a nuisance to be ignored, accepted or obliterated. Generally, wrinkles are an external sign of damaged skin. But could they also hold a clue to something more sinister going on beneath the surface?

The most common causes of face wrinkles are long term smoking, years of sun exposure without sunscreen as well as excess alcohol, a poor diet and pollution.

But not everyone develops wrinkles at the same rate and this could prove to be a vital clue to whether or not you’re at risk of developing osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis, also known as brittle bone disease, currently affects over 10 million people in the United States and three million in the United Kingdom. Once past the age of 50, half of all women and one in four men over the age of 50 are likely to suffer from an osteoporosis-related fracture. Although osteoporosis can affect anyone, it’s usually associated with factors such as age, gender, diet and exercise. But, according to research, it seems that facial wrinkles could also be used to indicate the chances of developing brittle bones.

Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine, studied 114 women post-menopausal in their late 40s and 50s to see whether there was a link between wrinkles and osteoporosis. Due to the nature of the study, all women had to meet further criteria which included not using Botox (wrinkle relaxing injections) or having undergone other types of cosmetic procedure designed to improve the appearance of wrinkles.

All the women had their bones x-rayed to measure density along with having their wrinkles counted and their depth measured at 11 key locations on the face and neck. Other factors taken into account were the firmness and elasticity of the skin on their foreheads and cheeks.

After analysing the results, the researchers noticed that those with the worst wrinkles also had the weakest bone density regardless of other factors such as age or lifestyle. According to researcher Lubna Pal:

"Skin and bones share common building blocks-proteins, and aging is accompanied by changes in skin and deterioration of bone quantity and quality."

Osteoporosis which means ‘porous bones’, often develops as people age and is more prevalent in women, particularly after the menopause. This can be due to reduced levels of oestrogen which helps to maintain bone density.

Of course, not everyone who develops osteoporosis is over 50. For instance, people who aren’t eating a healthy diet and are lacking essential nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D may start losing bone density. This is particularly common among sufferers of eating disorders.

This research could be particularly useful for helping doctors spot the likelihood of someone developing osteoporosis despite the absence of other risk factors. Simply observing someone’s face for wrinkles is less invasive and a cheaper option than sending a patient for a bone density scan.

However, this method of detection obviously won’t be any use where the patient in question has been undergoing wrinkle reducing procedures or those who are under the age of thirty and less likely to have many as wrinkles. And these days where defying wrinkles is a priority for many people, particularly women, it may be only those who prefer to let nature take its course who are most likely to have osteoporosis diagnosed by their wrinkles.

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