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People with osteoporosis have no symptoms until a bone fracture occurs. A woman’s risk of breaking a hip due to osteoporosis is equal to her risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer combined, while men aged 50 or older have a higher risk of fracture due to osteoporosis than prostate cancer, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Osteoporosis is typically a painless condition and can go undetected for years until a fracture occurs. The symptom most commonly associated with osteoporotic fractures is pain, and the location of the pain depends on where the fracture occurs. Fractures of the spine can cause severe “band-like” pain that radiates from the back to the sides. Repeated spinal fractures can lead to chronic lower back pain. In addition to pain, osteoporotic bone fractures cause a significant decrease in quality of life, disability and lost work productivity.
A hip fracture typically requires surgery to repair, and hip fractures in particular may heal slowly and/or poorly after surgical repair because weakened bones often do not heal properly. In fact, up to 30 percent of elderly people who have a hip fracture due to osteoporosis will need long-term nursing home care and approximately 20 percent of those who have a hip fracture will die in the year following the fracture. In addition to fracture, symptoms may also include loss of height or curved spine due to collapse of the vertebrae after a spinal fracture. The collapse will often cause a hunched-back appearance of the upper back, called a “dowager hump” because it commonly is seen in elderly women.