Many of us have heard of osteoporosis, but aren’t really sure what it really means or how it is different from osteoarthritis. One thing most of us do know is that it is a disease. It’s actually often known as “the silent thief” because bone loss occurs without symptoms. It can strike both men and women at any age, making it all the more important for each of us to learn more about this disease during Osteoporosis Month.
Approximately 1.4 million Canadians suffer from osteoporosis and one in four women over the age of 50 has the disease. A common misperception is that osteoporosis is a woman’s disease. In fact, one in eight men over the age of 50 has the disease. However, it also important to note that it can strike at any age.
Osteoporosis can be characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue, leading to increased bone fragility and risk of fracture (broken bones). Most often the fractures occur in the hip, spine, and wrist. It is also sometimes confused with osteoarthritis because the names are somewhat familiar. Osteoporosis is a bone disease, whereas osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints and surrounding tissue. An individual can however, have both conditions at the same time.
The costs associated with osteoporosis can be huge. The financial cost of treating this disease and the fractures it causes is estimated at $1.3 billion each year, in Canada, alone. Personally, the disease affects the quality of life of those suffering from it. The disease can often result in disfigurement, lowered self-esteem, reduction or loss of mobility, and decreased independence.