Female Osteoporosis

What is it?

Osteoporosis is a condition which causes bones to weaken and become more susceptible to fracture. It is a very common condition among women. It is estimated that 30%-35% of all women will develop osteoporosis. It is believed that women bones are lighter than men’s and this combined with hormonal changes as part of the menopause may lead to women losing bone mass more quickly than men. The consequences of having osteoporosis are that you will suffer a fracture to a bone in a fall where that fracture would not have happened to a person not suffering from osteoporosis.

Risk Factors

There are numerous factors which are thought to increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. Among the most common ones are:

  • Being female
  • Over 40
  • Postmenopausal
  • Early menopause
  • Family history
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Excessive drinking
  • Low Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • History of eating disorders
  • Low calcium intake
  • Thyroid disease

How is it diagnosed?

Traditionally it was only identified after a person had suffered a low impact fracture. However in recent years a Dual Emission X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) scan has been developed. This scan is able to measure bone density using small amounts of radiation. It has enabled medical professionals to diagnose people who are at risk of osteoporosis before they suffer any fractures. The scan will be able to identify if the patient has developed osteopenia. This is a condition where the bone density levels have deteriorated but not to the levels where fractures may occur. If it is addressed at this early stage it may be possible to greatly reduce the chances of developing osteoporosis.

The Treatment of Osteopenia/Osteoporosis

The initial treatment will involve an in depth review of your lifestyle paying particular attention to the risk factors identified above.

Patients should take regular exercise, stop smoking completely and reduce alcohol intake. They must also ensure that they are taking adequate amounts of calcium. They should consider taking calcium supplements if they are lactose intolerant or do not consume sufficient dairy products. Vitamin D increases your ability to absorb calcium so it may be appropriate to take a Vitamin D supplement as well.

A number of prescription medications are also available. We will, if deemed appropriate, prescribe the most appropriate medication based on your medical history and our professional assessment of your condition. The most common drugs prescribed are:

  • Increase Bone Formation – Parathyroid Hormone (PTH)
  • Reduce Bone Breakdown – H.R.T., Biphosphonates, Raloxifene
  • Combination of Both – Strontium

The Aftermath of Suffering a Fracture

The most common fractures suffering by women suffering osteoporosis are of the wrist, vertebrae and hip.

A wrist fracture will often not heal to its previous functionality. This may greatly reduce your ability to lift, carry or pour items.

A crush fracture of a vertebra will put pressure on adjoining vertebrae, sometimes causing a “humped back”. This change of shape will also put additional stress on the abdomen and chest areas.

Hip fractures can have very serious consequences. They generally happen in older women and the loss of mobility can be very difficult to overcome. Many who suffer this type of break will never regain full independence. Research shows that of women over 65 who suffer a hip fracture, 25% will die within 12 months of the fracture.