“A wrist fracture is a warning sign,” says Professor John Kanis, president of the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF). “On World Osteoporosis Day, marked on October 20, we urge all adults aged 50 and over who have suffered a wrist or other fragility fracture, to get tested for osteoporosis.”
Osteoporosis is a chronic and ‘silent’ disease that causes bones to weaken and become more fragile and breakable. At age 50, up to one in two women and one in five men will go on to suffer a fragility fracture in their remaining lifetimes.
Around one in six women and one in 33 men aged 50 or over will suffer a wrist fracture following a simple fall. Nearly always, the underlying cause is osteoporosis. Although not requiring hospital stay, wrist fractures need to be treated immediately, require at least six weeks to heal, and cause enough temporary disability and loss of quality of life to make dressing, household tasks or daily work extremely difficult. Once healed, the fracture shouldn’t simply be forgotten.
People over 50 who have suffered any kind of fragility fracture are at high risk of future fractures. One in four women who suffer a vertebral (spinal) fracture will experience another fracture within one year. The danger is that the first fracture becomes only the first of a cycle of new fractures that cause pain, disability, loss of quality of life, need for nursing care, and even early death.
It is estimated that up to 50 per cent of osteoporosis-related repeat fractures can be prevented with existing treatments. However, only two in 10 patients with initial bone breaks get a follow-up test or treatment for osteoporosis.
“A fracture caused by a fall from standing height or after a minor bump in the course of daily activities, can be a sign of osteoporosis,” said Kanis. “In women, wrist fractures are often the first fractures due to osteoporosis. Such fractures should not simply be treated and ignored, they must also trigger testing and, if indicated, treatment for osteoporosis to reduce the danger of future fractures.”