What is osteoporosis

Life expectancy in Britain is increasing but so is the incidence of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a descriptive term for a skeletal disorder which is characterised by low bone mass and a deterioration of bone tissue leading to an increase in skeletal fragility. It is often referred as “brittle bones” and someone who suffers from it has a much greater chance of sustaining a bone fracture; this is most common at the hip, wrist or spine.

In 2007 The British Orthopaedic Association called for all people over 50 years old who have suffered a fracture to be routinely tested for osteoporosis because one in every two women and one in every five men in the UK over 50 years of age are affected by osteoporosis, which will cause more than 150,000 fractures per year.

The facts regarding fractures, especially those of the hip, are very distressing. One in five older people who suffer a hip fracture will die in the first year, and the rate is even higher for men. Up to 14,000 people die each year in the UK as a result of an osteoporotic hip fracture.

Osteoporosis is a very treatable condition. Unfortunately too many people only discover they have it once they have suffered a fall, usually a minor one, which results in a fracture. It has been estimated that in the UK only 10–20% of women with osteoporosis receive drug treatment for the condition. The best way to avoid the condition is to assess bone density and then to treat if necessary, and the earlier it is caught the less the bone loss.