Osteoporosis and osteopenia 

What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a minor fall or sudden impact causes a bone fracture.

What is Osteopenia?
Osteopenia is the early stages of Osteoporosis. Research shows that most broken bones occur in the moderate to marked Osteopenia range.

Who is at risk of developing Osteoporosis?
It is estimated that 300,000 people in Ireland have Osteoporosis, with only 15% of people with Osteoporosis being diagnosed. All age groups including children are affected. 90% of broken hips are due to Osteoporosis.

Signs and Symptoms of undiagnosed
1. A broken bone from a trip and fall or less: even if you fell on cement or ice .
2. Loss of height or change in body shape of size
3. Hump on your upper back
4. Back pain: 75% with broken bones in their back have intermittent back pain.
5. Unexplained broken bones: Anyone with undiagnosed Osteoporosis can cough, sneeze, stand up from a chair, roll over in bed and break bones.

What causes osteoporosis? 
The most common ones are: menopause, family history, especially a broken hip; radiation, chemotherapy, some treatments for breast and prostate cancer, Coeliac disease/gluten & wheat sensitivity; anorexia/bulimia, over exercising, many medications such as Warfarin, Heparin; Lozec. medications containing cortisone such as Prednisolone and Dexamethasone. Lithium and some water pills can cause bone loss. Low calcium and Vitamin D intake; physiological or psychological stress; smoking and excess alcohol.
How is Osteoporosis diagnosed?

Risk assessment tools

If your doctor suspects you have osteoporosis, they can make an assessment using an online programme, such as FRAX.

These tools help to predict a person's risk of fracture between the ages of 40 and 90. The algorithms used give a 10-year probability of hip fracture and a 10-year probability of a major fracture in the spine, hip, shoulder or forearm.

DEXA scan

They may also refer you for a DEXA (DXA) scan to measure your bone mineral density. It's a short, painless procedure that takes about five minutes, depending on the part of the body being scanned.

What can I do to keep my bones strong?
If you're at risk of developing osteoporosis, you should take steps to help keep your bones healthy. This may include:

  • taking regular appropriate weight bearing exercise

  • healthy eating – including foods rich in calcium and vitamin D

  • making lifestyle changes – such as giving up smoking and reducing your alcohol consumption

Treating osteoporosis

Treatment for osteoporosis is based on treating and preventing fractures, and using medication to strengthen bones.

The decision about whether you need treatment depends on your risk of fracture. This will be based on a number of factors such as your age, sex and the results of your DEXA scan.

If you need treatment, your doctor can suggest the safest and most effective treatment plan for you.