Clinical features

Clinical Features

Osteoporosis (Greek: bone with too many passages) is a condition in which the holes in the bones become larger. Instead of bone, the spaces are filled with fat or bone marrow cells and the bone density is decreased, as shown in the page about bone structure. The bones are weak and break easily.
The osteoporotic fractures occur throughout the skeleton, as shown below. The most typcial fractures are of the spine, wrist and hip. Osteoporosis is not painful until the bone actually breaks. Fractures in hips and wrists are always painful, but about 2/3 of the spine fractures do not cause pain. The spine (vertebral) fractures cause height loss, curvature of the spine, disfiguring posture, and muscle aching. In severe cases the ribs can touch the pelvic bones. The lungs can't expand normally and heartburn is more frequent.
Hip fractures occur after a fall, especially a fall to the side. Persons with hip fractures must be treated in the hospital, usually with surgery such as pinning or replacing the hip. There can be side effects of bleeding or infection, and many persons require nursing home care after their hip fracture.


Many kinds of fractures become more frequent as men and women get older, as shown below. The increasing numbers of fractures are caused by the fragile bones of osteoporosis. The data are from people who live in Minnesota (Melton).

Fracture rates are different in different countries. Move your mouse around this map to see the incidence of hip fractures around the world. In many places we still don't know how many hip fractures there are.

. . . about osteoporosis

2004 by Susan Ott
Last update 8/8/04

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