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What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition that can be treated & even prevented

In the UK alone there are over 1,150 deaths that occur every month as a result of a hip fracture. At the London Osteoporosis Clinic we are trying to raise awareness of the condition so that future fractures and breaks can be prevented.

Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become fragile and if not treated, can progress painlessly until, seemingly from nowhere, a bone breaks. Many people first become aware of osteoporosis after an initial fracture but too many ignore this warning sign and only find out about osteoporosis after a more serious break.

Unfortunately, osteoporosis is very common.  There are over 520,000 osteoporosis-related fractures in the UK per year, yet many fractures can be prevented by treatment.

Osteoporosis occurs when the spokes of the lattice become thin and break.  Although osteoporosis usually affects the whole skeleton, the most common fractures are in the wrist, spine and hip.

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 in the UK will have osteoporosis
  • Every minute, someone suffers an osteoporosis-related fracture
  • An estimated 3.2 million people in the UK suffer from osteoporosis
  • Each year, there are some 80,000 hip fractures, over 50,000 wrist fractures and 40,000 spinal fractures from osteoporosis
  • Osteoporosis costs the NHS and government some £4 billion each year.  (Reference: National Osteoporosis Society)

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There are typically no symptoms in the early stages of bone loss.  But once bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, you may experience signs and symptoms that include:

  • Back pain caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
  • Loss of height over time
  • A stooped posture
  • A bone fracture that occurs much more quickly than expected
Your bones are constantly renewed — new bone is made, and old bone is broken down.  When young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone and increases bone mass.  Most people reach their peak bone mass by their early 30s.  As we age, bone mass is lost faster than it’s created.  How likely you develop osteoporosis depends partly on how much bone mass you attained in your youth.  The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have “in the bank”, and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.

Other factors for developing osteoporosis include:

  • A sedentary lifestyle (e.g. lack of exercise, not being active)
  • Drinking excess alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Low sun exposure and lack of vitamin D
  • Low calcium levels
  • Inflammatory conditions (e.g. arthritis)
  • Genetic variation
  • Drugs, such as steroids
  • Apoptosis (cell death)
  • Menopause – particularly early menopause

Osteoporosis may produce no symptoms of severe disability and reduced life expectancy.

Read our Osteoporosis Leaflet

Our Leaflet provides valuable information about this condition.  Osteoporosis causes bones to become fragile and, if left untreated, can progress painlessly until a bone breaks.

Find out more in our osteoporosis leaflet.

If you suspect that you or a family member may be at risk of osteoporosis or have already been diagnosed with the condition, it’s essential to seek early treatment.  There are several new and effective treatments available that can help reduce the risk of future fractures and complications associated with osteoporosis.  Don’t hesitate to speak with your healthcare provider to discuss your options and develop a treatment plan.