Osteoporosis is a disease of progressive bone loss associated with an increased risk of fractures. The term osteoporosis literally means porous bone. The disease often develops unnoticed over many years, with no symptoms or discomfort until a fracture occurs. Osteoporosis often causes a loss of height and dowager’s hump (a severely rounded upper back).
Osteoporosis itself has no specific symptoms; its main consequence is the increased risk of bone fractures. Osteoporotic fractures are those that occur in situations where healthy people would not normally break a bone; they are therefore regarded as fragility fractures. Typical fragility fractures occur in the vertebral column, rib, hip and wrist.
As osteoporosis progresses, the vertebrae weaken and narrow, which can make the patient shorter and cause a severely rounded upper back (“dowager’s hump”).
A vertebral compression fracture has a wedged-shaped appearance. The front of the vertebra has cracked and shortened while the back remains intact.