Upstate News

February 10, 2003
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

SUNY Upstate epidemiologic study to examine prevalence of osteoporosis in women, girls with disabilities

Researchers at SUNY Upstate Medical University have launched a major clinical trial that may offer new insight into the onset of osteoporosis among women with disabilities. The study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will examine the prevalence of osteoporosis among these women as well as highlight risk factors that cause osteoporosis in this population.

The study seeks women and girls ages 10 to 45 who have mobility impairments, such as those associated with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, stroke, traumatic brain injury and other disabilities.

Researchers say this young population may have osteoporotic conditions secondary to their disabilities. Although osteoporosis is more commonly associated with menopause, the reasons for this osteoporosis are not likely related to hormonal changes.

“Usually, osteoporosis is identified as a condition associated with postmenopausal women,” said the study’s principal investigator, Margaret Turk, M.D., a SUNY Upstate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation. “But we believe there is a significant population of young women, even girls, for whom osteoporosis will quickly become and may already be a major health issue. Our aim is to prevent further disability.”

Turk expects to find study participants with osteopenia, which is typically a precursor to osteoporosis. “Bone density begins to increase in adolescence and appears to be related to nutrition, health and activity,” she said. “Girls and women who have limitations in any of these three areas may not reach high levels of bone density or may lose their densities with decreased mobility. It is vitally important that the medical community understand how these factors are related to osteoporosis.”

Participants will be asked a series of questions regarding their health history, diet and their level of physical activity. They will undergo a bone density scan using a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). The DEXA scan is the most common way to measure bone density in a nondisabled population. However the machine has certain limitations when used with the population of women and girls with mobility impairments. Issues of proper positioning and interpretation of readings are critical to ensure accurate readings.

Participants must be female and between the ages of 10 and 45 and have a mobility disability, such as spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, congenital impairment, stroke, disabling arthritis, traumatic brain injury or neuromuscular disorder. The study seeks participants across the entire upstate region. All health assessments are free.

The study is sponsored by SUNY Upstate’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and its WEALTH Program (Women Empowered, Aware and Learning through Health Education) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For information on the study, call SUNY Upstate at 315-464-4782.

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