All about Osteoporosis
WHAT IS OSTEOPOROSIS?
Osteoporosis means porous bones. Normal bones (picture below left) are made up of minerals and proteins. Throughout life there is an ongoing process of replacement and repair of this structure. In most people a gradual demineralisation of bone occurs after the age of about 35. In osteoporotic bones (picture below right), the normal process becomes accelerated and insufficient minerals, such as calcium and magnesium are laid down in the bone fabric, leading to weakness. In mild cases it remains asymptomatic but as it becomes more serious it can lead to bone pain and fractures even with normal usage.
HOW IS OSTEOPOROSIS DIAGNOSED?
The World Health Organisation uses Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) to both define and diagnose the condition. Although any area of the body can be tested, the hip and spine are good indicators for osteoporosis. DEXA offers a reliable diagnosis of the disease, even in the early stages, but is expensive and relies on a radioactive source for the scanning.
Ultrasound has been in use since 1984 for measuring bone strength in the heel, and therefore assessing osteoporosis risk. Additional research published in the medical journal The Lancet in 2004 confirms that the Contact Ultrasound Bone Analyser (CUBA) is an accurate predictor of the fracture risk that occurs with osteoporosis.
The additional advantages of the CUBA scanner is that it is portable, easy and safe to use and does not rely on the use of x-ray radiation. There are now more than 1000 CUBA systems in use worldwide.
HOW DOES THE CUBA SCAN WORK?
When you attend our scanning clinic, we will ask you to complete a comprehensive questionnaire about your medical and family history, lifestyle and dietary habits. This will help us to identify the risk factors which we know will increase your chances of developing osteoporosis.
We will ask you to place your bare foot (normally the left) into the scanner, which resembles a foot bath. The scan itself is quick, safe and painless, although you may feel a slight tingling for about a minute. It is important that you are able to remain still during this process.
HOW COMMON IS OSTEOPOROSIS?
About 3 million people in Britain are affected by osteoporosis. It is four times more common in women than men, with postmenopausal women most at risk. Statistics suggest that one in three women and one in twelve men are affected.
AM I AT RISK?
Yes! Sadly, everyone is at risk but some are at more risk than others. We know that the risk of osteoporosis increases with age but it is also increased with the presence of a number of recognised medical conditions, treatments and lifestyle issues. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to suffer from osteoporosis and the more likely it is to occur at an early age.
KNOWN RISK FACTORS
hysterectomy with ovaries removed
low testosterone levels (men)
metabolic disease (eg thyroid)
digestive disorders (eg Crohn’s)
INTERPRETING THE RESULTS
The ultrasound scan will give us a Broadband Ultrasound Attenuation (BUA) reading for your heel. This tells us how much of the ultrasound has been “blocked” by the bone during the scan. The results are then recorded on a graph to give a visual interpretation. This shows the actual value, how this compares to what would be expected for your age, and whether you may already have, or might be developing, osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is usually a slowly progressive condition. Diagnosing those at risk of developing it, is vital for remedial action to be taken, before any clinical risk of fractures occurs.
Once we have the results, we will be in a position to advise you on what to do next.
Next Osteoporosis Screening Clinics
To be announced