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What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It’s a fairly common condition that affects around three million people in the UK. More than 300,000 people receive hospital treatment for fragility fractures every year as a result of Osteoporosis. Wrist fractures, hip fractures and fractures of the vertebrae (bones in the spine) are the most common type of breaks that affect people, however, they can also occur in other bones, such as in the arm, ribs or pelvis.

Fractures of the spinal vertebrae, pelvis, wrists, hands and arms cause serious disruption to daily life can lead to disability and may even shorten life expectancy. Many of the fractures occurring over the age of 50 are caused by calcium loss.

There are usually no warnings that you have developed Osteoporosis and it is often only diagnosed when a bone is fractured.

What causes Osteoporosis?

As we grow older our bones stop growing and begin to lose their ability to repair quickly and we gradually start to lose bone density from about 35 years of age. Women lose bone rapidly in the first few years after the menopause. Losing bone density is a normal part of the ageing process, but for some people it can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures.

Other factors that increase your risk of developing Osteoporosis include:

• Inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
• Conditions that affect the hormone-producing glands, such as an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) or an overactive parathyroid gland (hyperparathyroidism)
• A family history of Osteoporosis, particularly history of a hip fracture in a parent
• Long-term use of certain medications that affect bone strength or hormone levels, such as oral prednisolone
• Malabsorption problems
• Heavy drinking and smoking

Diagnosing Osteoporosis using DEXA

This type of scan is a short, painless procedure to assess your bone mineral density that can then be used to assess your fracture risk.

Treating Osteoporosis

Treatment for Osteoporosis is based on treating and preventing fractures and using medication to strengthen bones. The decision about what treatment you have – if any – will be made by your doctor depending on your risk of fracture. This will be based on a number of factors, such as your age and the results of your DEXA scan.

Preventing Osteoporosis

If you are at risk of developing Osteoporosis, you should take steps to help keep your bones healthy. This may include:

• Taking regular exercise
• Healthy eating, including foods rich in calcium and vitamin D
• Making lifestyle changes, such as giving up smoking and reducing your alcohol consumption

Read more about preventing Osteoporosis:

The National Osteoporosis Society: NOS Click Here

NHS website: NHS Click Here

Living with Osteoporosis

If you are diagnosed with Osteoporosis, there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of a fall, such as removing hazards from your home and having regular sight tests and hearing tests. Speak to your GP or nurse if you’re worried about living with a long-term condition. They may be able to answer any questions you have.

The NOS (National Osteoporosis Society) can put you in touch with local support groups, and they also have an online discussion forum.