Osteoporosis is a disease in which the density and quality
of bone are reduced, leading to weakness of the skeleton
and increased risk of fracture. Osteoporosis literally
means "porous bone". When a bone has become osteoporotic
or osteopenic (low bone mass), the risk of a fracture
increases. The forearm, spine and hip are the most common
fracture sites, accounting for more than 80 percent
of all fractures. Osteoporosis and associated fractures
are an important cause of mortality and morbidity. 20
percent of hip fractures lead to death within a year.
In many affected people, bone loss is gradual and without
symptoms or warning signs until the disease is advanced.
Osteoporosis is a global problem which is increasing
in significance as the population of the world both
grows and ages. For these reasons, osteoporosis is often
referred to as the "silent epidemic". In the US alone,
44 million have either osteoporosis or low bone mass.
These 44 million represent 55 percent of the population
aged 50 and over. It is estimated that by 2010 the number
of people with osteoporosis or low bone mass will have
increased to 52 million in the US.
Many people think of osteoporosis as an "an old woman's
disease". This is an old misconception. Bone loss in
women can begin as early as age 25. Worldwide, the lifetime
risk for a woman to have an osteoporotic fracture is
30-40 percent. In men the risk is about 13 percent.
In the US, more than 14 million men have osteoporosis
or low bone mass. This number is expected to increase
by more than 20 percent to 17 million in 2010.
Osteoporosis is a widespread public health problem.
The costs to national healthcare systems from osteoporosis-related
hospitalization are staggering. In the US, the cost
to the health care system associated with osteoporotic
fractures is approximately $17 billion annually. This
converts to more than $45 million a day! Each hip fracture
represents an estimated $40,000 in total medical costs.