What is osteoporosis and what does it do?

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones lose their strength and are more likely to break.

Osteoporosis doesn't show any outward symptoms and the first sign of osteoporosis is often a broken bone. Broken bones and fractures are the same thing. The bones most commonly fractured as a result of osteoporosis are the wrist, hip and spine.

Osteoporosis itself is does not cause pain. But broken bones caused by osteoporosis can be painful, and sometimes lead to long-term difficulties. Spinal compression fractures can cause a change in body shape and ongoing, chronic back pain. Hip fractures can result in loss of independence or reduced health and wellbeing. These long-term difficulties can have a big impact on quality of life for those affected.

more about the consequences of osteoporosis

What causes osteoporosis?

After the age of about 35 years, the amount of bone tissue we have naturally starts to decrease. This is often described as ‘bone loss’ or ‘bone thinning’. Our bones don’t look any different from the outside, but the inner structure becomes thinner and sometimes breaks down.

Bone thinning

Bone thinning is much more significant as we move into later life, which explains why osteoporosis and broken bones become more common in old age.

While we all lose bone strength as we get older, not everyone will experience broken bones because of osteoporosis. There are many other risk factors that contribute towards low bone strength and our chances of breaking a bone, besides just age. 

More about bone strength

Who is affected by osteoporosis?

Generally speaking, post-menopausal women are most prone to developing osteoporosis and experiencing fractures, although it is possible for men, younger adults and rarely even children to develop the condition too.

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  • Women
  • Men
  • Younger men and women