What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. This leads to increased bone fragility and risk of fracture (broken bones), particularly of the hip, spine and wrist. Osteoporosis is often known as "the silent thief" because bone loss occurs without symptoms. Osteoporosis is sometimes confused with osteoarthritis, because the names are similar. Osteoporosis is a bone disease; osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints and surrounding tissue.
1.4 million Canadians suffer from osteoporosis.
One in four women over the age of 50 has osteoporosis. At least one in eight men over 50 also has the disease. However, the disease can strike at any age.
The cost of treating osteoporosis and the fractures it causes is estimated to be $1.9 billion each year in Canada alone. Long term, hospital and chronic care account for the majority of these costs. Given the increasing proportion of older people in the population, these costs will likely rise.
The reduced quality of life for those with osteoporosis is enormous. Osteoporosis can result in disfigurement, lowered self-esteem, reduction or loss of mobility, and decreased independence.
The statistics related to hip fractures are particularly disturbing. There were approximately 25,000 hip fractures in Canada in 1993. Seventy percent of hip fractures are osteoporosis-related. Hip fractures result in death in up to 20 percent of cases, and disability in 50 percent of those who survive.