- What are the different types of osteoporosis?
- What are the causes and risk factors of osteoporosis?
- What are the symptoms and complications of osteoporosis and determining factors for bone strength?
- How is osteoporosis diagnosed?
- How is osteoporosis treated and what is the prognosis for the condition?
- Vital information on osteoporosis and FAQs
What is osteoporosis?
Pronounced “os-tee-oh-puh-roh-sis”, osteoporosis is a metabolic bone disease that results in thin, weak bones1. The term itself means porous/spongy bone.
Bone is made up of collagen, calcium and protein, all of which give bones their much-needed strength. The body continually breaks down and replaces the tissues that make up bone in a process known as resorption. This is a delicate process wherein small quantities of bone mineral are removed and replaced with equal deposits of new mineral in order to preserve bone strength. However, when the body cannot keep up with production due to natural ageing, changes in hormone levels or a medical condition, the balance of this process is disturbed, resulting in too much bone being lost, or too little being made, and osteoporosis occurs.
Bone loss is generally progressive and silent, with the disorder affecting the quality and density of the bones causing them to become fragile and porous. This greatly increases the risk of fracture, with symptoms often only becoming apparent when this occurs.
While osteoporosis has an impact on the entire skeleton and can cause a fracture in any bone, those most commonly affected and vulnerable to breaks (fractures) include the hips, spine, and wrists. Breaks may occur after even a slight injury, often one that would not normally result in a bone fracture.
Fractures may result from bones cracking, as is the case in a hip fracture, or collapsing. An example of a collapsing fracture is when a compression fracture occurs in the vertebrae of the spine, causing these to weaken and crumble.
Osteoporosis can develop at any age, but is generally most common in adults over the age of 60, particularly women. An estimated 200 million people suffer from the disease globally, with its prevalence escalating along with the ageing population2.
1. University of Rochester. Osteoporosis. Available: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=85&ContentID=P00932 [Accessed 31.08.2017]
2. PubMed. Feb 2006. Osteoporosis: a still increasing prevalence. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16455317 [Accessed 20/09/2017]
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