Osteoporosis causes no symptoms and the only signs may be:
- a loss of height as you age caused by compression in the spine or
- experiencing a bone fracture from a minor knock to your limbs, or minor fall
Of all osteoporotic fractures in Australia:
- 46% are vertebral (bones in the spinal column)
- 16% are hip
- 16% are wrist
Vertebral (spinal) fractures
Spinal fractures are common with osteoporosis and can cause significant pain or lead to distortion, particularly the development of a stooped posture (kyphosis). Some spinal fractures may lead to no symptoms or signs, with women being unaware that they have had a fracture. Changes to posture can also increase the risk of a fall or lead to difficulty with digestion or breathing. In addition, people who have had spinal fractures are more likely to have further fractures in the future.
Hip fractures are often the result of osteoporosis, particularly if you are over 75 years of age.
Hip fractures require hospitalisation and surgery. Recovering from a hip fracture and surgery can be long and painful and may mean there is some permanent loss of mobility. This loss may lead to reduced independence or the need for long term care and you may be more likely to have further fractures in the future.
Complications can arise in the elderly following surgery for hip fracture, and these are associated with an increased risk of death, so follow up medical care is critical.
Wrist fractures can occur with a fall onto an outstretched hand, and can result in immobility, inconvenience and loss of function, especially if the fracture occurs in the dominant hand (i.e. your right hand if you are right-handed).
If you have severe osteoporosis, minor trauma such as sneezing, coughing, minor knocks to limbs or minor falls can lead to fractures. Therefore, any fractures resulting from minor trauma should be investigated to determine whether there is underlying osteoporosis.
Access Economics Pty Ltd, Prepared for Osteoporosis Australia. The Burden of Brittle Bones: Costing Osteoporosis in Australia. 1-36. 2001.
This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at December 2013.