Don’t Let This Warning Sign Slip Away

I have heard the story many times this winter. Ice. A slip. A fall. A broken wrist. A missed opportunity. This year up to 250,000 people will sustain a fracture of the wrist related to osteoporosis. Most of these will occur in women who never knew they were at risk.

It is estimated that osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures each year with 250,000 of these occurring at the wrist. Osteoporosis is a condition that affects bone strength leading to an increased risk of fracture. It has traditionally been viewed as an “older” person’s disease. I think of my grandma who at 70 sustained her first hip fracture, and who at 90 was hunched over her cane. The typical picture of osteoporosis.

But the truth is, the disease starts much earlier in life. Women reach their peak bone density between 25-35 years old. After age 40 gradual bone loss begins with the rate of loss accelerating after menopause. By the time women reach my grandma’s age of 70, when she sustained her first hip fracture, bone loss can be quite significant.

The wrist fracture has come to light as “the warning fracture” – an opportunity to intervene before future fractures. Fractures of the wrist typically occur in a younger, healthier set of patients than other osteoporotic fractures. However, bone density has been found to be abnormal in up to 90 percent of women who sustain a wrist fracture, and women who sustain a wrist fracture are at two to fourfold higher risk of sustaining a subsequent fracture compared to individuals with no prior fracture.

Remember what may seem to be a simple fall or simple fracture, may be a warning sign. Check with your doctor if you have sustained that you think may be related to osteoporosis to see if further testing is indicated. Ask if treatment for osteoporosis is right for you.

Amy Franta, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

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