How do you know if you are at risk of developing osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a fairly common condition that affects around three million people in the UK. It weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break.

Every year there are more than 300,000 people that receive hospital treatment for fragility fractures caused by osteoporosis. These are fractures that occur from standing height or less, and although wrist fractures, hip fractures and fractures of the vertebrae are the most common type of breaks that occur they can also occur in other bones, such as in the arm, ribs or pelvis.

There are usually no warnings you’ve developed osteoporosis and it’s often only diagnosed when a bone is fractured after what is often a minor fall.

What causes osteoporosis?

You gradually start to lose bone density from about 35 years of age. Women lose bone density more rapidly in the first few years after 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.

There are other factors that increase your risk of developing osteoporosis and these include:

Inflammatory conditions
Conditions that affect the hormone-producing glands
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
Malabsorption problems
Heavy drinking and smoking

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

If your practitioner suspects you have a raised risk of osteoporosis after taking a short medical history, they may refer you for a scan to measure your bone mineral density. This type of scan is known as a DEXA (DXA) scan. It’s a short, painless procedure using low emission X-rays from which your bone mineral density can then be used to assess your fracture risk.

What happens next?

The decision about what treatment you have, if any, will depend on your risk of fracture. This will be based on a number of factors, such as your age, medical history and the results of your DXA scan. Even where there is little risk, advice can be given about how to keep bones healthy and avoid future problems.

Osteoporosis consultations at Shine

By Andrew Doody