News

Why must women suffer multiple fractures BEFORE their brittle bones are diagnosed?

Abstracted from the DailyMailOnline – 1 February 2011

Article in full: www.dailymail.co.uk/health/

At 68, Christine Sharp has been crippled with the brittle bone disease osteoporosis. She’s shrunk six inches (from 5ft 3in to under 4ft 10in), while any small movement leaves her in terrible pain. Standing is agonising.

Christine Sharp

Christine (pictured left) believes all this misery could have been avoided if she’d been given a simple bone scan following a fall.

Fourteen years ago, she slipped on ice and fractured a bone in her spine. A scan would have detected the early symptoms of osteoporosis and she’d have been able to start treatment with bone-boosting drugs such as bisphosphonates, vitamin D and calcium tablets.

Instead, it wasn’t until Christine had another fall and suffered three more spinal fractures that the condition was discovered.

Christine’s experience is alarmingly common. One in three women and one in five men aged 50 or older in Britain has osteoporosis, an age-related disease that affects the way the bone cells renew themselves. As a result, the bone becomes less dense and more prone to breaks.

Women are at greater risk because their levels of oestrogen – the bone-protective hormone – fall with age.

The problem is that the condition has no symptoms until a fracture occurs. The danger is if the sufferer falls and fractures a hip.

Britain has one of the highest rates of hip fracture in Europe. Last year, there were 80,000 cases; by 2020, it could be 100,000. Every year, nearly a third of these patients die as a result, 28,000 will never walk properly again and 12,000 have to go into residential care.

The gold standard tool for checking for osteoporosis is a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan to measure bone density. Under official guidelines, all women older than 50 who have fallen and suffered a fracture are meant to have this scan to check for osteoporosis and assess the risk of future fractures.

It’s estimated that such screening – and subsequent preventative treatments – would cut the risk of a second fracture by half. Osteoporosis experts and organisations such as the National Osteoporosis Society are campaigning for improved fracture care.

For further information on the Fighting For Fracture Liaison Services Campaign, go to www.nos.org.uk

See also…

The following WHC health information

  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteoporosis: bone health following the menopause
  • Osteoporosis, Focus on

and the

Breaking Point Report, launched in the House of Lords on 11th October 2010, which highlights the high risk of fragility fractures for post menopausal women.

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