Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bone’. It is a condition where bones become thin and lose their strength, as they become less dense and their quality is reduced. This can lead to broken bones, which cause pain, disability, and make everyday activities extremely difficult.
Around the world, one in three women and one in five men over the age of fifty will suffer a broken bone due to osteoporosis.
Our bones are living tissue that give our body structure, allow us to move and protect our organs. Osteoporosis causes the bones to become more porous and fragile, greatly increasing the risk of painful and often disabling broken bones (known as fragility fractures).
Osteoporosis is often called the ‘silent disease’ because most people don’t know they have osteoporosis until they suffer a broken bone from a minor fall or bump – something that would not normally have caused such a drastic injury. In fact, even after breaking a bone, around 80% of patients are still not diagnosed and treated for osteoporosis, the underlying disease which has caused the fracture.
How osteoporosis develops
From birth to adulthood, our bones develop and grow until, in our early 20s, they reach what is called peak bone mass – the time when the bones are at their strongest, densest and least likely to fracture. Throughout life, bone is constantly being renewed, with new bone replacing old bone- and this helps to keep our skeleton strong. But for people with osteoporosis, more and more bone is lost and not replaced. This means that the bones gradually become brittle and more likely to break.
By being aware of osteoporosis and which factors could place you at risk, you can make sure that you get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Fractures that are most often associated with osteoporosis are at the hip, spine and wrist. Fractures of the spine are the most common, yet many people dismiss the back pain as just a sign of getting older and don’t get proper diagnosis.
Early diagnosis is important because one broken bone increases the risk of suffering yet more broken bones - resulting in long-term disability and loss of independence. One in four women who have a new spine fracture will fracture again within one year. After a hip fracture, about one-quarter of people die or never walk again.
By getting early diagnosis you can be treated more effectively, so that future fractures can be prevented.
And remember, there are things you can do to help prevent the condition and keep your bones strong: follow a bone-healthy diet, exercise regularly, avoid negative lifestyle factors, and find out whether you have risk factors for osteoporosis.
Be informed and know how to help yourself!
Quick Osteoporosis Facts
- One in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 will be affected by a broken bone due to osteoporosis.
- It is a serious condition, but it can be treated. You can help prevent osteoporosis through good diet and lifestyle.
- Early diagnosis means that treatment can be more effective – don’t ignore back pain!
- If you’ve broken any bone (for example, your wrist) after a minor fall from standing height, this could be a sign that you have osteoporosis. Be sure to ask your doctor for testing and treatment - because one broken bone is a warning of more to come!
How serious are broken bones?
It cannot be emphasized enough that broken bones due to osteoporosis are not just painful, they are all too often a cause of life-changing disability and loss of independence. That is why it is so important to ensure you are diagnosed and treated early, before fractures happen!
Here are just a few facts
- Up to 20-24% of patients die in the first year after a hip fracture
- Hip fracture survivors experience loss independence, with 40% unable to walk independently and 60% requiring assistance a year later, 80% are restricted in other activities, such as driving and grocery shopping.
- 33% of hip fracture patients are totally dependent or in a nursing home in the year after a hip fracture
- A fracture not only affects people physically, but also emotionally. It reduces overall quality of life, often causing depression and isolation as people reduce social interaction or are no longer able to do the activities they used to do.
- The long-term loss of independence and mobility can put physical, emotional, and financial strain on patients themselves, as well as relatives and friends.
Read the many real-life patient stories, which show the impact of fractures due to osteoporosis.