Osteoporosis, a disease which causes bones to become weak and fragile, is the cause of broken bones in approximately one in three women and one in five men aged over 50 worldwide.
Spine (or ‘vertebral’) fractures are the most common osteoporotic fractures – with one new fracture estimated to occur every 22 seconds worldwide. Yet although they are a major cause of pain and long-term disability, up to 70 per cent of vertebral fractures don’t come to clinical attention.
To mark World Osteoporosis Day [https://www.worldosteoporosisday.org ] on October 20th, the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) urges adults to be on the alert for three signs of possible spine fractures: sudden, severe back pain; height loss of more than three centimeters (just over one inch); or stooped back.
IOF President, Professor Cyrus Cooper, stated: “Patients with sudden back pain are often simply prescribed pain killers and not properly assessed and treated for the underlying cause. Yet without preventive treatment, one spine fracture can initiate a cascade of more broken bones, which in turn lead to long-term pain and disability.”
In fact, one in five women with a spine fracture will suffer another within twelve months, with serious impact on their quality of life. Anita, a patient from Sweden with a family history of osteoporosis, is a typical example. Anita sustained multiple spine fractures, with the third occurring when she had the flu and simply coughed. As a result, she has lost six centimetres in height, suffers from chronic pain, and had to give up her beloved job as a nurse.
Together with its 240-member organizations worldwide, IOF calls on health care professionals to address the under-reporting and under-treatment of spine fractures.
Professor Cooper added: “We advise radiologists who routinely perform X-rays to be on the lookout for vertebral fractures and to correctly report these as ‘fractures’. Physicians too must do their part to ensure that once identified, patients benefit from appropriate treatment and management strategies, before further damaging and life-threatening fractures occur.”
Fractures due to osteoporosis represent an enormous burden to healthcare systems and costs are predicted to rise markedly over the next few decades. IOF calls for the implementation of Fracture Liaison Services in hospitals worldwide – a critical step forward in reducing the human and economic costs of fragility fractures. Such services help ensure that a patient’s first break is their last.
For World Osteoporosis Day, IOF has provided several new resources for patients and healthcare professionals. The One-Minute Osteoporosis Risk Test
[https://www.iofbonehealth.org/iof-one-minute-osteoporosis-risk-test ] is also available to help adults identify their personal risk factors for osteoporosis.