Osteoporosis is a disease that takes years to develop without any warning symptoms.
Bone mineral is gradually lost, making the bones weaker and more prone to fracturing or breaking.
These fractures usually happen in the hip, spine, wrist or shoulder, and they are called fragility fractures to indicate that the bone has broken because it has become more fragile.
Because the first warning sign of osteoporosis is frequently a fracture, it is often called “the silent thief” as it literally steals bone mass without giving any indication of doing so whatsoever, until a fracture occurs.
A fragility fracture is one that occurs spontaneously or easily from a simple activity such as reaching, bending, twisting, coughing or sneezing. It can also occur following a minor injury such as a fall from a standing height or less at walking speed or less.
Fractures do not normally occur in these situations in people with healthy bones.
Fragility fractures represent the vast majority of all fractures in women and men age 50 and over. These can have devastating health consequences including pain, decreased quality of life, loss of independence and even death.
A fragility fracture also increases a person`s risk for future fragility fractures.
All men and women over 50 should have their height measured annually to assess for possible spine fracture.
Many spine fractures are asymptomatic (i.e. painless) and many people are not even aware that they have had one. One important clue that a spine fracture may be present is the loss of height.
Everyone loses a bit of height with age.So, how much is too much? When height is measured on an on-going basis by a healthcare professional, a loss of 2 cm (3/4 inch) or more is significant and could be a warning sign that a spine fracture is present.
For those who have not had their height followed by a healthcare professional, they can compare their current height measurement to their recollection of their height when they were a young adult. If they have lost 6 cm or more (2½ inches), this could be a warning sign that a spine fracture is present.
If you have lost height according to one of the definitions above, a regular X-ray of your spine will help determine whether or not your height loss is due to an asymptomatic spine fracture. If a spine fracture is found on X-rays, you are automatically at high fracture risk and you need osteoporosis treatment regardless of your BMD test results.