Home » Women's healthcare » The silent disease putting women at risk

Shireen Bate

Global Franchise Head Osteoporosis, Theramex

Tina Backhouse

General Manager for the UK, Theramex

Osteoporosis is a silent threat, especially to women facing, going through or post-menopause – yet it’s widely ignored by doctors and even women themselves.

Osteoporosis is a neglected condition – and hundreds of thousands of post-menopausal women suffer as a result.

“Osteoporosis affects 3.7 million people in the UK (78% of which are women), but it’s known as the ‘silent disease’ because of under-diagnosis, under-treatment and low public awareness. However, osteoporosis is NOT inevitable and can be prevented.” says Shireen Bate, Global Director of Osteoporosis at Theramex, the pharmaceutical company that focusses solely on women’s health.

“One of the reasons women are at higher risk is linked to a reduction in estrogen that occurs at menopause. Women over 50 have similar chances of being affected by osteoporosis as they do from high cholesterol or high blood pressure – yet many are unaware of this risk, remain undiagnosed, and even among those who do get a diagnosis many are not treated.

Serious consequences

The risk of osteoporosis seems to be widely ignored by healthcare practitioners and women themselves – a 2021 European survey that set out to identify gaps and inequalities of care in osteoporosis shows the true picture.

  • Osteoporosis has a devastating personal, societal and financial impact. It can cause severe pain, increasing isolation, loss of independence and poor quality of life.
  • A quarter of working age people with osteoporosis have to give up work, change their job or reduce their hours.
  • It is estimated that 60% of people need help with activities including eating, dressing and personal hygiene.
  • Osteoporosis leads to bone fragility. One in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 will suffer a fragility fracture. Women lose about 50% of their bone mass during the course of their lifetime, about half of which is lost during the first 10 years after the menopause.
  • Around one in four dies within a year of their hip fracture.

Underfunded and neglected

Yet despite the total UK costs of osteoporosis reaching 5.5 billion Euros, only 2.4% of total healthcare costs are spent on treating osteoporosis in the UK compared to an EU average of 3.5%.

Osteoporosis is not seen as a National Health priority, access to testing is far from adequate and treatment choice is a postcode lottery.

Increasing awareness means reducing risk

“Osteoporosis is not a normal process of aging but a disease which can be prevented and treated. The IOF is calling for a European-wide strategy to reduce debilitating fractures and the impact they have on women and health care systems” says Professor of Medicine Jean-Yves Reginster, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Epidemiology of Musculoskeletal and Ageing

He supports the wider call for better education of GPs to increase identification of osteoporotic patients before their first fracture.

“There are simple tools which, by identifying clinical risk factors, offer, in less than one minute, an assessment of the individual fracture risk in men and women for the next ten years,” he points out.

Taking action yourself

A recent study showed that 66% of women seen in primary care who were at high risk of fractures were not given the medication they needed, due in part to a failure to diagnose osteoporosis – so take action to protect yourself.

  • Be aware of your osteoporosis risk factors and get an early assessment, diagnosis and treatment if needed.
  • Eat a healthy diet including enough bone health nutrients calcium and protein.
  • Get enough vitamin D - made in the skin after exposure to sunlight (about 15 minutes daily). Boost vitamin D intake through foods like oily fish, eggs, mushrooms and fortified dairy foods or juices. Or take supplements (1,000 IU/ day)
  • Maintain a healthy body weight – being too thin (BMI under 19) damages bone health.
  • Take regular weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercise.
  • Understand that HRT helps address short term symptoms and can help reduce the long-term impact of osteoporosis.
  • Avoiding smoking and heavy drinking.

We are committed to helping Women manage their health through innovative products that look after women at various stages of their lives. We believe that post-menopausal women need to better understand their risk of osteoporosis and how to reduce their chance of getting a life changing fracture and we know that as a company, working with HCPs and support groups, we are able to help this happen.

Tina Backhouse, General Manager for the UK at Theramex


Next article