Greg Lyubomirsky, CEO, Osteoporosis Australia rightly raised concern over the growing number of Australians unnecessarily breaking bones impacting the patient, their family and the healthcare system in general. Australians were estimated to face challenges with approximately 160,000 broken bones in 2017 due to poor bone health, with Brisbane not being any less affected. The financial burden of the same is expected to reach more than $3.1 billion, with 70% of it directly related to fracture cost. With 2.2 million people affected with osteoporosis, of which 27% are women aged 60 and above, there is a likelihood of this potentially manageable orthopaedic condition to emerge as a global pandemic.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a musculoskeletal condition causing bones to become brittle, raising their vulnerability to fractures (even with a minor trauma), chronic pain, disability and diminished mobility and independence.
With advancing age, it is normal to lose bone density, causing them to become fragile. While hip fracture is the commonest in Brisbane, fractures at other places like wrist, spine, arm or pelvis are not rare. In many cases, osteoporosis presents with a fracture.
Notwithstanding the progressive nature of this disease, certain measures need be taken to check its progression.
Management of osteoporosis:
The prevention and treatment protocol in Brisbane aims at limiting bone loss, fixing fractures, minimising pain and disability and strengthen the bone tissue.
- Screening of the risk groups – Postmenopausal women and patients who have suffered from fracture with minimum trauma are the potential candidates for a presumptive diagnosis of osteoporosis.
- Clinical assessment – A Bone Mineral Density (BMD) scan on at least two skeletal sites could be diagnostic.
- Prevention of fractures – A fall-risk assessment, home safety intervention to reduce the risk of falls.
- Diet changes – Adequate calcium, vitamin D and protein intake, cessation of smoking and limitation of alcohol intake, increased exposure to the sun for Vitamin D synthesis, maintaining a healthy weight are helpful in managing the early cases. Also, it is essential to get some tips to improve the cardiovascular health as decreased mobility may lead to obesity and heart problems.
- Resistance exercises – Duly supervised activities tailored to strengthen the muscles and lower the impact on bones.
- Supplements – Diet and medical supplementation with calcium and Vitamin D.
- Drugs – Certain drugs such as Bisphosphonates (reducing the rate of bone loss), hormone replacement therapy (HRT, to prevent development of osteoporosis during menopause), parathyroid hormone (for advanced cases), and strontium ranelate (increase bone formation) etc. have been employed to treat the cases in Brisbane where exercises and analgesics (painkiller drugs) are not tolerated.
- Psychosocial support – Along with the fracture rehabilitation programme to enhance recovery, it is vital to extend practical psychological support too to combat the symptoms of depression or loneliness.
- Patient education – Support groups can advise the patients regarding the prevention of falls and help improve mobility to maintain a good quality of life.
With kind support, preventive and therapeutic measures, it is possible to live productively with osteoporosis.