What is osteoporosis?

Over 2 million Australians have osteoporosis, a condition where your bones become thin and break more easily. Referred to as a ‘silent disease’ where often no symptoms are present and for many, a fractured (or broken) bone is the first sign of osteoporosis.
Fractures due to osteoporosis can occur at any age but increase as you age. Common sites for osteoporotic fractures are the spine, hip, wrist, and ribs. Hip fractures are common in the over 75 years.
There are a number of risk factors that contribute to osteoporosis seen in COPD patients. These risk factors include:

  • Smoking.
  • Vitamin D deficiency.
  • Low body mass index (BMI).
  • Hypogonadism (deficiency in the secretory activity of the ovaries and testis).
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Family history.
  • Menopause.
  • Thin and small body frames.
  • Caucasian or Asian.
  • Advancing age.

In addition to these risk factors, oral steroid use in many patients with COPD is thought to be a contributing factor in the development of osteoporosis.

Lifestyle factors can play a role in reducing age-related bone loss that contributes to osteoporosis risk. These include:

  • Adding calcium to your diet if you are deficient.
  • Sensible sun exposure.
  • Doing weight bearing exercises.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Minimise your alcohol intake (no more than 2 standard drinks per day for both women and men with several alcohol free days per week).

A bone density test is a quick test for measuring:

  • Osteoporosis or osteopenia (bone density that is lower than the normal peak density but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis).
  • Evaluate response to therapy.
  • Predict fractures occurring in the future.

Your doctor may order blood and urine tests along with x-rays to have a closer look at your bone health.

There are a number of medicines available to treat osteoporosis through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The medicines work by maintaining or improving bone density and strength. This can reduce the risk of fractures.