Osteoporosis is a silent disease that causes no symptoms. Osteoporosis becomes evident when fractures occur, as a result of having weakened bones.
Vertebral (spinal) fracturesSpinal fractures are common with osteoporosis. Loss of height with increasing age can be a sign that a person has osteoporosis. Height is lost when the bones in the spine fracture and become compressed. Fractures within the spine can result in significant pain and lead to deformity particularly the development of a stooped posture (kyphosis). Alterations in posture can increase the risk of falling and lead to difficulty with digestion and breathing.
Hip fracturesThe hip is another common site for fractures with osteoporosis. Hip fractures result in hospitalisation and need for surgery. The recovery from such a fracture can be prolonged and very painful and may leave the person with permanent loss of mobility. This in itself may lead to loss of independence and the need for long term care.
People who have had spinal and/or hip fractures are more likely to have further fractures in the future. Hip fractures are more common in people over 75 years of age. It is also known that the complications that can arise in the elderly following surgery for hip fracture are associated with an increased risk of mortality.1
Other fracturesWhen osteoporosis is present, minor trauma such as sneezing, coughing, minor knocks on the limbs and even minor falls can lead to fractures. Any fracture occurring from minor trauma should be investigated as it may indicate underlying osteoporosis.
Falls are a particular problem in the elderly, as not only do they result in fractures but they can lead to loss of confidence due to fear of falling again.
Content updated July 27, 2011