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Osteoporosis What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is defined as a decline in the bone mineral density of the bones of the body which causes them to become weak and fragile and more likely to break or fracture. This is most common in the hip, spine and wrist, but also can occur in other bones such as the arm and pelvis.

Osteoporosis and how it affects men and women

Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bone’. One in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 in the UK will fracture a bone at some point due to deteriorating bone health. Over 3 million people in the UK are thought to have osteoporosis resulting in over 230,000 fractures every year.

What are the symptoms?
Prevention?
What happens next?

What are the symptoms?

Osteoporosis develops slowly over several years and is quite often termed a ‘silent disease’ as the first symptoms may in fact be a fracture or break following a minor fall or sudden impact. This would be termed a fragility fracture.

Another visible symptom can be the stooping position (Dowager’s hump) that occurs in some older people, as the spine can no longer hold the body’s weight, due to compression fractures in individual vertebrae (the bones which make up the spine).

Prevention?

Although some conditions can predispose a person to osteoporosis, there are lifestyle changes that can help. Some of these are as follows:

  • Eat a varied and healthy diet containing vitamins such as vitamin D and minerals such as calcium
  • Try to reduce both the consumption of alcohol and excess smoking
  • Try some weight bearing exercises such as brisk walking and dancing
 
How Much Calcium is in Food?
View Alcohol Guidelines

In all cases if you feel you are at risk of osteoporosis or indeed have the condition you should consult your doctor.

What will happen next?

Once you see the doctor and discuss your condition they may refer you for a DXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan. This is not a painful or invasive procedure.

It will measure the density of your bones and compare it to that of the general healthy population; the difference (if any) gives a T score. The T score is one of the main determinants of whether you have osteoporosis.

If the T score is:
Between +1 and -1 SD this is 'normal'
Between -1 and -2.5 SD this is termed 'osteopenia'
Below -2.5 SD this is defined as 'osteoporosis'

It is not however the only thing a doctor will base their treatment or diagnosis on, there may be other risk factors such as diabetes, chronic liver disease, asthma, smoking, history of osteoporosis in the family, alcoholism, and previous fractures.

If you are diagnosed and receive treatment it is very important you adhere to that treatment and do not stop treatment unless your doctor tells you to do so.