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HealthInfo Canterbury

Overview of osteoporosis

Mate kōiwi

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes your bones to be thinner and weaker than normal. This means they can break easily, such as after a small bump or fall.

Osteoporosis affects more than half of women and about one third of men over 60, as well as a few younger people.

Some people are more likely to get osteoporosis than others. To find out about your bone health, you can do a simple test called Know Your Bones.

Some of the risk factors that increase your likelihood of getting osteoporosis can't be changed, such as your sex or age, but many others can. Risk factors you may be unable to change include:

You can reduce your risk of getting osteoporosis by strengthening your bones. You can achieve this by keeping physically active, getting enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet and not smoking.

Symptoms of osteoporosis

Elderly man with a sore knee in painThere are no early warning symptoms or signs with osteoporosis. The first signs can include:

With more severe osteoporosis, fractures can occur doing ordinary things like bending, lifting or just getting up from a chair.

Diagnosing osteoporosis

Your doctor can assess your risk for osteoporosis from your medical history and by asking you about your lifestyle. They can look for physical signs of osteoporosis like previous fractures, loss of height and a curved spine.

They may suggest you have a bone density scan (also called DEXA scan) to check for bone weakness.

Treating osteoporosis

There are good treatments that can slow the progression of osteoporosis and help to stop you getting broken bones. These include lifestyle measures and medications.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Reducing your risk of osteoporosis

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by Fracture Liaison Service, Canterbury DHB. Page created May 2020. Last updated July 2020.

Page reference: 46646

Review key: HIOSP-24517