Osteoporosis ‘The Silent Condition’

According to Mail online Osteoporosis kills 1,000 people a month in the UK, however it remains relatively unknown and is often referred to as ‘the silent condition’. One of our ambassadors, Beverley Clark, has been campaigning to raise its awareness.

A recent survey found only 25% of adults in the UK are familiar with the term Osteoporosis, yet broken bones caused by osteoporosis occur on average once every two minutes. The condition is often more likely to affect women, with over half of all women and 1 in 5 men over 50 likely break a bone due to poor bone health.

Osteoporosis occurs when the struts which make up the mesh-like structures within the bones become thin, causing the bones to become fragile and break easily. These breaks are referred to as fragility fractures. Osteoporosis is sometimes seen as a natural part of ageing, as a degenerative disease of old age. However, Osteoporosis is progressive, not degenerative, and even children can be diagnosed with Juvenile Osteoporosis.

Living with a broken hip or spinal fractures can lead to a loss of independence and the need to go into a nursing or care home. This can be very distressing for the person concerned and it puts a further burden on social care provision. With an ageing population we face a ‘ticking time bomb’ that could bring the already overstretched NHS and Social Services to their knees.

While there are ways to help prevent the onset of osteoporosis, including taking regular weight bearing exercise and eating a healthy calcium rich diet, our risk of osteoporosis is mainly heredity. Genetic factors dictate 80% of our likelihood of developing the disease and once a person has the disease there is no cure. Drugs can slow the disease progression, but have serious side effects. What is most effective is early detection, which can help you prevent early death and disability, by taking steps to reduce your chances of a fall, such as removing hazards from your home and having regular sight tests and hearing tests.

The Duchess of Cornwall has been running a campaign to ensure that each general practice has a GP additionally trained in treating people with Osteoporosis.  Sadly the success of this campaign has been limited, as many general practices do not have the funds or staff to undertake additional projects. Yet Osteoporosis kills more women than all the female cancers put together, diseases that would not be treated in this cavalier fashion.

So what’s the solution?  Raising awareness has got to be an important first step; it’s helpful if Patients Association ambassadors, or anyone passionate about raising awareness for Osteoporosis, join their GP practice’s Patient Participation Group and negotiate the putting up of posters and information leaflets in the waiting room. Also suggesting at the PPG meeting that the pharmacist attached to the practice holds an Osteoporosis training session with practice staff to help them be more prepared. Osteoporosis is a condition that effects and will effect so many of us, and it is clear more needs to be done.

For more information or to order Posters and information leaflets contact The National Osteoporosis Society on 01761 471771 or email info@nos.org.uk.

Many thanks to the National Osteoporosis Society for information provided.