Professor Moira O’Brien
Founder and President of the Irish Osteoporosis Society
Osteoporosis in Ireland is a disease that affects the insides of a person’s bones. In brief, it occurs when a person loses more bone than their body produces.
Osteoporosis in Ireland causes bones become brittle and break very easily – referred to as fragility fractures. Subsequently a person can look perfectly fine on the outside but have significant bone loss. There are no signs or symptoms prior to a person breaking a bone.
Everyone should check to see if they have risk factors for bone loss. Currently 280,000 people have been left undiagnosed.
One in four men and one in two women aged 50, will break a bone from osteoporosis in their lifetime.
Usually osteoporosis in Ireland is preventable in the majority of people, therefore most fractures are also preventable. People assume that breaking a bone is not serious. 20% of people aged 60+ who break their hip, will die within six-to-12 months, from the secondary effects of a fracture and 50% will lose their independence. 90% of fractured hips are due to osteoporosis.
Knowing what can help and prevent osteoporosis in Ireland
Many people confuse osteoporosis with arthritis. Osteoporosis affects the bones; arthritis affects the joints.
Everyone should be getting the recommended daily amounts of calcium, vitamin D and protein, not only for their bone health but for their overall health. Appropriate weight-bearing exercise is essential to help build strong bones. Health professionals can interpret the DXA scan report from anyone with bone loss.
Those with bone loss are not recommended to be doing regular sit-ups, yoga, trampolining, or twisting their spine. Swimming and bike riding are not weight-bearing activities.
A personalised approach to treatment
There are approximately around 200 causes of bone loss and it is essential that these are investigated case by case. This is to ensure a person will improve on a chosen treatment and not continue to lose bone.
The treatment a person receives should be based on their age, their medical history, the results from a DXA scan of their spine and hips, if the person has broken a bone/s, the causes of their bone loss and the area/s affected.
One in four men and one in two women aged 50, will break a bone in their lifetime from osteoporosis in Ireland, but it affects all age groups. Senior citizens are the highest risk group, as many are on medications or have conditions which cause bone loss.
Staggeringly, more women die from osteoporosis in Ireland, than the combined deaths of cancer of the ovaries, uterus and cervix. Similarly more men die from osteoporosis in Ireland, then get prostate cancer.