Osteoporosis is a condition where bone density is lost, making them more likely to break. Losing bone density is a normal part of the ageing process, but for some people it can lead to the development of osteoporosis. It can also affect children, but is most common in people over the age of 50.

What causes osteoporosis?

From about the age of 35, bone density is gradually lost. There are a number of factors that increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. These include:

  • Women who have reached the menopause. This is when the woman’s monthly cycle stops. Women lose bone density quickly in the first few years of menopause.
  • Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Crohn’s disease
  • Having an overactive or underactive thyroid
  • Having a family history of osteoporosis
  • Long term used of certain medicines, such as prednisolone (a steroid)
  • Drinking heavily
  • Smoking

“I was worried about developing osteoporosis as my mother had it. I had just turned 45 and the menopause had just kicked in so I went to speak to my Pharmacist about what I could do to try to prevent it if possible. They gave me some tips and advice on lifestyle changes I could make, such as reducing my alcohol intake, stopping smoking and taking part in some light exercise. They also suggested I should speak to my GP, as I have a family history of developing the condition.”

Early diagnosis will give the best results. It is highly recommended that a scan of the spine and hip area is conducted to diagnose osteoporosis. It is a treatable disease in the majority of people with prevention of fractures and medication to strengthen bones can be started if appropriate. The treatment will depend on the results from a scan along with other contributing factors.

What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is sometimes referred to as the ‘silent disease’ as it tends to progress without any symptoms or pain. A GP usually diagnoses osteoporosis after a painful fracture occurs, normally in the back, wrist or hip.

Other symptoms are:

  • Sudden pain in the lower, mid or upper back
  • Loss of height
  • The development of a hump on the back and or a change in shape of the body

Most people won’t experience pain until a fracture occurs, but some can experience pain without a fracture.

Speak to your GP if you experience any of these signs or symptoms or you have one or more of the risk factors.