Brittle bone disease is a genetic bone disorder, known scientifically as osteogenesis imperfecta, or OI. Patients diagnosed with this disease lack the ability to make, or have defective, connective tissue, and they have frequent broken bones. Because of this, the disorder is also commonly called "glass-bone disease." While there is no cure for this disease, treatment is mainly focused on preventing broken bones, and making sure they heal correctly, if they do happen. Individuals with brittle bone disease are encouraged to live a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, and it is not uncommon for them to undergo physical therapy and surgery.
Most experts agree that a healthy lifestyle is imperative for patients with brittle bone disease. This includes maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet, in which they receive adequate amounts of certain vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C and calcium are very important because they help to strengthen bones and to promote healing in case a bone breaks. Speaking with a physician or licensed dietician can help a patient understand her specific dietary needs.
Care should also be taken to avoid any substances that can lower bone density. Smoking, drinking alcohol, and consuming caffeine are all thought to reduce bone density. Some medications may also be dangerous for people with this condition. Steroids and some antidepressants have been linked to low bone density.
Regular, safe exercise is often greatly encouraged for patients diagnosed with brittle bone disease. Low impact sports, such as swimming and walking, are considered to be the best. This exercise will help strengthen both muscles and bones, which generally results in fewer broken bones.
Physical therapy is often started as soon as possible. Small children, however, can be very resistant to this therapy, due to the pain caused by the disease. Physical therapists typically help patients with this condition improve their posture and range of movement. Therapy can also help strengthen the muscles of the body.
Certain surgeries are not uncommon for those diagnosed with brittle bone disease. Rodding is a surgery often performed, and involves putting metal rods into the longer bones of the body, such as the arms and legs. Patients with curved bones or frequent fractures are the most likely candidates for this type of surgery. Not only does rodding strengthen bones, but it also straightens crooked bones and helps to prevent future deformities.
There has been much research done to find a medication to help patients with this disease, but there has not been one medication that has proved completely successful. Recent research though, shows some success with biophosphates, especially in children.