Osteoporosis

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Osteoporosis is often referred to as the ‘silent disease’ because, although almost 3m people in the UK are estimated to have osteoporosis, worryingly few people know they have it until they break a bone. There are more than 230,000 fractures every year due to osteoporosis.

Here you will find a brief overview of osteoporosis - its diagnosis and treatment - as well suggestions of where you can go for more specialist information and support.

You can also learn more about common risk factors for osteoporosis and steps you can take to reduce your risk.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a progressive condition that affects your bones as you get older. It makes bones fragile and more prone to break easily with the bones in your wrist, hip and spine being particularly susceptible.  

Why does it happen?

Bone is a living tissue with new bone replacing old bone throughout your life. In fact your whole skeleton is replaced over a period of around 7 years.

By your mid 20s, your bones are at their strongest.  In your mid 30s, they gradually start to become weaker and more fragile due to normal age-related bone loss - the special cells in your bones that build new bone cannot work as quickly as the cells that break down old bone.

The hormone, oestrogen, is important for healthy bones. Bone loss becomes more rapid in women for several years following the menopause due to changes in oestrogen production. This can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of broken bones.

The stronger your bones are when you reach your 30s, the longer it will take for bone loss to lead to osteoporosis.

Recognising the symptoms of osteoporosis

Unfortunately osteoporosis has no symptoms and usually goes undetected until a relatively minor incident causes a broken bone in your wrist or hip, or the collapse of one or more of the bones in your spine, known as vertebra.

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Age UK Advice:
0800 169 6565
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Useful websites

  • The Health A-Z section of this website contains information on the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of many types of illnesses.

  • The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has produced guidance on the early assessment and treatment of NHS patients

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