The mineral content of bone is greatest in young adults and thereafter decreases with age. Osteoporosis can be defined as a reduction in the amount of bone mineral per unit volume of anatomical bone or skeleton, or more simply as a reduction in bone volume, exceeding the natural decline with age. The process diminishes bone strength but produces no symptoms until a fracture occurs in response to minor trauma - typically of a vertebral body, the proximal end of the femur or the lower forearm. Osteoporosis has major economic consequences: 10% of all orthopaedic beds in Britain are occupied by patients with fractured neck of femur, most of which are associated with osteoporosis.1 This article discusses the diagnosis, causes, treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.
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