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Osteoporosis

What Problems Can Osteoporosis Cause?

Last modified: 
23/04/2012 - 12:54

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Osteoporosis alone does not produce any symptoms. Most people with this condition are unaware that their bones are thinning until they experience a fracture.

The good news is that a simple imaging procedure, called a bone mineral density (BMD) test, can detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs.

Osteoporosis And Fractures

If the bones become thin enough, fractures may occur from a minor fall, after lifting something heavy, and even just from walking. The fracture usually heals with treatment. But if osteoporosis progresses, more fractures may occur.

When fractures occur in the spine, the bones in the spine may become shorter. These are called "compression fractures," and people with severe osteoporosis may sustain two, three, or even more. This is a common way older people lose height.

Spine fractures can also change the square-shaped bones of the spine to wedge-shaped. This can result in a stooped posture.

By the age of 80, nearly half of all women show a spinal fracture on an X-ray. Yet many cannot recall any injury or incident that would have caused the fracture.

Unfortunately, the joint surface alignment in the spine may become distorted, and the joints may therefore wear down. This can cause arthritis in the spine and pain.

Surgery to deal with a fracture may be more difficult on osteoporotic bones, because thinner bones might be unable to firmly hold devices such as rods and screws, which may be necessary to repair the fracture.

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.