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What is Osteoporosis?

One in three women over the age of 50 suffers from osteoporosis, a condition that thins the bones and leaves them vulnerable to fracture. In Latin, osteoporosis means ‘porous bones’. An insidious, progressive condition, it is also known as ‘the silent disease’.   A classic case is that of a female patient in her late sixties, seen by Dr Stephanie Barrett via the orthopaedic team after a fracture, following no particular trauma. After further investigation, it was found that she had also developed a spinal curvature or ‘stoop’, and had lost four inches in height. A bone mineral density scan confirmed severe osteoporosis. Osteoporosis has a strong genetic predisposition. A maternal history of osteoporosis, or history of maternal hip fracture are strong risk factors. In addition, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, previous history of long term steroid use, sedentary lifestyle and rheumatoid arthritis make it more likely that a patient will develop the disease. Men are also affected by osteoporosis, but generally later in life. Testosterone deficiency is a male risk factor for the disease. Vitamin D is mainly synthesised by the skin following sun exposure. Covering up and the use of high factor sunscreens (necessary to avoid sun related skin cancers) also reduces Vitamin D levels. A blood level between 75-200nm/l is recommended to avoid bone thinning

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