The word osteoporosis comes from Latin osteos that means bone and poros that means porous, that is porous bone. It is characterized by low bone mass and micro-architectural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility. The bones become so porous and weak that they are likely to break due to a minor injury.
Osteoporosis is a disease that affects many millions of people worldwide. The lifetime risk for a woman to have an osteoporotic fracture is 30-40%, with the percentage rising to 52% in women more than 70 years old. Studies have shown the prevalence of osteoporosis in men to be higher than previously thought, with approximately one in five men.
In Europe, USA and Japan, it affects around 75 million people (EFFO and NOF (1997) Who are candidates for prevention and treatment for osteoporosis? Osteoporos Int 7:1.).
Until few years ago, it was considered as a normal aging process. However, even thus advancing age increases exponentially the incidence of vertebral and hip fractures, osteoporosis is not a natural aging process. 1/3 women over 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as it will 1/5 men. These fractures are a major cause of morbidity and disability in older people and, in the case of hip fractures, it can lead to premature death. Such fractures impose a considerable economic burden on health services worldwide.
Available data on the economic burden of osteoporosis shows that currently, the cost of osteoporosis is of 37 billion EUR per year in the EU, and 19 billion USD per year in the USA. Costs are projected to rise dramatically alongside osteoporosis prevalence in the coming years. Worldwide, 40% of osteoporotic fractures occur in people of working age. The direct annual cost of treating osteoporotic fractures of people in the workplace is 48 billion USD in Canada, Europe and the USA alone, not taking into account indirect costs such as disability and loss of productivity (The Global Burden of Osteoporosis: A Factsheet, International Osteoporosis Foundation).
The decrease in bone tissue associated with osteoporosis is silent and can remain asymptomatic for a long time until the fracture occurs. For this reason, osteoporosis is also known as the silent disease. By 2050, the worldwide incidence of hip fracture in men is expected to increase by 310% and 240% in women (Gullberg B, Johnell O and Kanis JA (1997) Worldwide projections for hip fracture. Osteoporos Int 7:407. ). Accurate and early diagnosis is fundamental in the fight against this disease.
Melton LJ, Atkinson EJ, O’Connor MK, et al. (1998) Bone density and fracture risk in men. J Bone Miner Res 13:1915.3.
Melton LJ, Chrischilles EA, Cooper C, et al. (1992) Perspective. How many women have osteoporosis? J Bone Miner Res 7:1005.4.
Kanis JA, Johnell O, Oden A, et al. (2000) Long-term risk of osteoporotic fracture in Malmo. Osteoporos Int 11:669
The Global Burden of Osteoporosis: A Factsheet, International Osteoporosis Foundation
Gullberg B, Johnell O y Kanis JA (1997) Proyecciones mundiales de fractura de cadera. Osteoporos Int 7: 407.
EFFO y NOF (1997) ¿Quiénes son candidatos para la prevención y el tratamiento de la osteoporosis? Osteoporos Int 7: 1).