Osteoporosis affects around three million people in the UK and causes nearly 250,000 fractures a year. One in two women and one in five men over the age of fifty will break a bone mainly because of bone weakness, those most commonly affected being the wrists, hips and vertebrae. It is a serious medical condition and of the 70,000 people who have osteoporotic hip fractures every year, nearly one third will die within a year from causes related to the fracture.
Bones start to lose their strength after the age of 35 but osteoporosis commonly affects post-menopausal women. Lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, can influence bone health. Regular exercise is essential and everyone should do at least two and a half hours of weight-bearing and resistance exercise every week. Healthy eating is essential. Calcium is important for strong bones and high levels of calcium can be found in leafy green vegetables, dried fruit and yogurt. Vitamin D is also important and this can be found in eggs, milk and oily fish but most vitamin D is made in the skin in response to regular but brief exposure to bright sunlight. Osteoporosis can be treated with bisphosphonate drugs, such as Alendronate, Etidronate, Risedronate, as well as Strontium, Raloxifene, and Teriparatide.
Where people have suffered an osteoporotic vertebral body fracture, there are a number of image guided cement augmentation procedures that can help with the pain and deformity, such as vertebroplasty, balloon kyphoplasty and SpineJack®. These can be effective at rapidly alleviating symptoms.