MPs must consider how their constituents are affected by the crippling disease of osteoporosis
People incorrectly think getting shorter is just a natural part of growing old or ‘just one of those things’, says the Royal Osteoporosis Society.
Millions of people in the UK today could have broken bones in their spine which are not being recognised, according to the Royal Osteoporosis Society (ROS), which is calling on MPs to consider how their constituents are affected by this crippling disease.
People incorrectly think getting shorter is just a natural part of growing old or ‘just one of those things’, says the Royal Osteoporosis Society. More than three million people aged over 50 in the UK are estimated to have a spinal fracture (broken bones in the spine), two thirds of whom (up to 2.2 million) are undiagnosed.
It is estimated half of all women and one in five men over the age of 50 are affected by osteoporosis, but the condition can also affect much younger people as well as those with anorexia nervosa, athletes or it can also be associated with pregnancy.
The President of the ROS, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, said: “I have seen for myself the pain and the ignominy that the sufferers of osteoporosis endure, as both my mother and my grandmother died as a result of this devastating disease. My fervent hope for the future is that my children, and my grandchildren, understand the importance of looking after their bones throughout their lifetime to prevent osteoporosis. Finding a cure, through research, is vital and has to be the Royal Osteoporosis Society’s ultimate goal to stop future generations experiencing the agony of their forebears.”
As part of World Osteoporosis Day, celebrated yesterday, 20 October, the ROS featured on BBC Radio 4’s Charity Appeal. The programme, highlighting the work of the ROS and appealing for donations to support its activities, will air again on Thursday 24 October at 15:27 or can be heard online here.
Bradford resident Christine Sharp, who is also a volunteer for the ROS, presents the appeal, telling her story about living with osteoporosis – a condition where bones lose strength and break more easily, even after a minor bump or fall.
Christine has suffered several broken bones in her spine due to osteoporosis and was forced to give up her hairdressing business as a result.
“One winter morning I had a simple slip on my driveway. I found out I had two broken bones in my spine and was shocked to be diagnosed with osteoporosis,” she says.
“The pain was so bad I could hardly stand at work. After struggling on for a year, I couldn’t do it anymore and made the heart-breaking decision to stop work. I gave up my hairdressing business and the job that I loved.
“I’ve since broken several more bones in my spine, simply by pulling on my trousers and going over speed bumps in the car. My bones are so fragile, just a cough can make them break. It’s terrifying. I’m always looking down, afraid of tripping or being knocked.
“The worst part is losing six inches in height, all from between my ribs and hips, because the bones in my spine are crushed. My organs are squashed into less space so I can’t eat much and breathing literally hurts. It’s constant pain. Osteoporosis has changed my life.”
Osteoporosis causes bones to lose their strength and break more easily. Osteoporosis doesn’t have any outward symptoms and the first sign is often a broken bone, usually in the wrist or hip or, most commonly, in the spine. This is sometimes known as a vertebral fracture. Osteoporosis itself doesn’t cause pain, rather the pain felt comes from the broken bones.
The ROS earlier this year launched the world’s first Osteoporosis and Bone Research Academy, bringing together the best minds, leading researchers, clinicians and academics in the field to advance scientific knowledge of this disease and drive the research for the development of new medications and treatments.
Many people do live well with osteoporosis, leading active lives, but if MPs have any queries about bone health or would like to find out more about the number of people in their constituency who may be suffering from the disease, please get in touch with Anne Thurston, Head of Quality Improvement at the ROS, on Anne.Thurston@theros.org.uk or 01761 473254.