Osteoporosis: Getting ahead of the silent disease
Osteoporosis is a common condition characterized by low bone density, causing fractures, pain and deformity. Changing oestrogen levels, a natural consequence of menopause, are directly related to a decrease in bone density but whilst menopause is a natural part of life, osteoporosis doesn’t have to be. Leading osteoporosis specialist and Consultant Rheumatologist Dr Colin Tench, from London Medical, shares his advice on how you can protect your bones and future-proof your health.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease characterised by low bone mass and structural changes which make bones fragile and prone to fracture. Osteoporosis is a silent disease
– often symptomless until you break a bone. You can however, take steps to protect yourself by identifying your personal risk and taking pre-emptive action.
Could you have osteoporosis?
Low-impact fractures are a red flag for osteoporosis, but there are other risk factors. The condition has a high genetic component, for example anyone whose parent had a hip fracture is at increased risk themselves.
Some conditions make osteoporosis more likely. Rheumatoid arthritis, overactive thyroid and long-term steroid medication can reduce bone density. Smoking, drinking, and being underweight can predispose to the disease. Women are especially vulnerable to osteoporosis after the menopause.
Hormones and osteoporosis
The hormone oestrogen protects bones; when levels fall after the menopause, bone density drops. Women whose periods stopped before the age of 45, had early ovarian removal, or missed periods because of eating disorders are particularly at risk.
Understanding fracture risk
We diagnose osteoporosis using a DEXA scan, which measures bone density in your hips and spine. Combining this data with the online Fracture Risk Assessment Tool (FRAX) can identify your individual risk of breaking a bone over the next ten years, so you can make lifestyle changes and start treatment.
Treating osteoporosis involves managing underlying disease, addressing lifestyle factors, and treating low bone density. There are effective treatments for osteoporosis that can reduce fracture risk and help you live a full and active life:
Bisphosphonates like Alendronate inhibit the action of osteoclasts (the cells that munch or resorb bone), so that bone density rises. Clinical trials show these drugs reduce fracture risk by an impressive 50%.
People who can’t take the tablets can have Zoledronic acid intravenous injections once a year. Alternatively, an innovative new medication, Denosumab, is available as a six-monthly under-the-skin injection. The antibody slows bone breakdown, increases bone density, and reduces fracture risk.
Why choose London Medical?
London Medical is one of the UK’s leading private medical centres. With 28 years’ experience, the clinic offers expert screening, assessment and treatment for osteoporosis. London Medical’s experienced rheumatologists and endocrinologists use special blood and urine tests to detect ongoing bone resorption between bone density scans as part of their Osteoporosis care plan.