We are all familiar with frailty, broken bones, loss of height and the curved back that are often regarded as a normal part of ageing. We now know that in fact these are symptoms of a disease called Osteoporosis which can be prevented if steps are taken earlier in life. If allowed to progress without treatment, Osteoporosis is one of the leading causes of suffering by pain, deformity and disability and death in elderly people and sometimes the not so elderly. Fortunately there have been important breakthroughs in its diagnosis and treatment and increased awareness among the public and health care professionals.
Osteoporosis means porosity or thinning of the bones, whatever the cause. Bone loss with ageing is a worldwide problem and it becomes a disease when the bone mass falls to a level at which a break or fracture is likely to occur.
Our bones are normally strong and only break when there is severe trauma or injury. With the ageing process and with certain diseases the bones become thinner and more fragile so they break much more easily and these fragility fractures are indicative of Osteoporosis and are common in the wrist, spine and hip.
Fracture risk rises steeply with age and by age 80 years one woman in three and one man in five can expect to have a hip fracture or spinal fractures. At the age of 50 years, a woman has a 40 per cent chance of having a fracture caused by Osteoporosis during the rest of her life, and the risk for a man is about 13 per cent.
Osteoporosis can occur at any age, and can affect men as well as women but is most common in elderly women. The frequency of Osteoporosis varies in different parts of the world being more common in Western Europe and the USA, and affecting white Europeans and Asians more than black populations.
As people are living longer the number of people suffering from Osteoporosis will increase accordingly and this will lead to a doubling in the number of fractures from Osteoporosis. The suffering and disability caused by these Osteoporotic fractures have created a major health problem in many elderly populations where 1 in 5 people who suffer a hip fracture dies within six months. The costs to our health services resulting from Osteoporosis are enormous.
- Osteoporosis is the result of thinning of the bones causing them to break more easily than normal
- Although more common in elderly women, osteoporosis also affects men and may occur at any age
- By age 80 one in three women and one in five men can expect to have a fracture as a result of osteoporosis.