About Osteoporosis

Prof. Moira O'Brien of The Irish Osteoporosis Society speaks with

Rory Hafford of Health News Ireland about osteoporosis.  



Osteoporosis means porous bones. It is a silent disease that is usually not diagnosed until a fracture/s (broken bone/s) occurs.

Bone is a living tissue that is constantly being removed and replaced. Bones need normal sex hormones, calcium, vitamin D, adequate calories, proteins and weight bearing/strengthening exercise to keep them healthy.

As we get older, more bone is naturally lost than is replaced, but people with Osteoporosis lose more bone than people who do not have the disease. This causes bones to become fragile and therefore they break easily e.g. through a minor bump or fall. A broken bone as a result of a trip or fall from a standing position is not normal at any age.

normal bone vs. osteoporotic bone

Osteoporosis can affect the whole skeleton, but the most common areas to break are the wrist, spine and hip. The disease affects all age groups and both sexes - it is not just a female or old person’s disease.

At present it is estimated that 300,000 people in Ireland have Osteoporosis. One in 4 men and 1 in 2 women over 50 will develop a fracture due to Osteoporosis in their lifetime.  The disease can affect even children.

If you have one fragility (low trauma) fracture, this doubles your risk of another fracture due to Osteoporosis.

However, it can be prevented in most cases, and is a treatable disease in the majority of people. Early diagnosis is essential for the best results. A DXA scan of your spine and hip area is the gold standard for diagnosing Osteoporosis and is highly recommended if you are at risk.

Signs of Osteoporosis

Usually the first sign of Osteoporosis is a fragility (low trauma) fracture e.g. a broken bone due to a trip and fall from a standing position or less.

Symptoms of Osteoporosis

  • Sudden, severe episodes of upper, middle or low back pain
  • Loss of height (greater than 2cm)
  • Development of a hump on the back and / or a change in body shape, for example, the rib cage may rest on pelvic rim or a pot belly develops

Most people have no pain till a fracture occurs but a small percentage of people can have back or hip pain, prior to a fracture.

It is essential that you speak with your doctor or an Osteoporosis specialist if you experience any of these signs or symptoms or if you have a risk factor for Osteoporosis.

Please browse our site to read more about Osteoporosis, how it affects you and what you can do to prevent it.