Osteoporosis poses a serious health risk for women both in Chicago and nationwide. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, one out of every two women will experience an osteoporosis-related incident during their lifetime, compared to one in every five men.
Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by thinning bones as people age. More fragile bones means that even low-trauma, seemingly minor falls can be debilitating and costly for those who suffer from osteoporosis. An estimated $17 billion is spent nationwide for treatment of fractures connected to fractures to those afflicted with osteoporosis.
Common treatment for osteoporosis involves placing the patient on medications that attempt to slow the disease’s progression. However, there is some question as to at what point patients should be started on medications. For example, should patients whose bones are being to weaken be placed on medications even if they are not yet osteoporotic? Or how about those who have no history of any episode or prior fractures due to osteoporosis, but has osteopenia, a state of lower bone density that may or may not lead to osteoporosis?
To help answer these questions, the World Health Organization (WHO) devised a controversial tool called FRAX, an online risk calculator to help doctors and patients analyze the likelihood of future osteoporotic fractures and determine whether drug therapy might prevent them.
And while FRAX might seem like a positive step in osteoporosis treatment, there is some controversy surrounding the tool’s usefulness. The controversy stems from the fact that not every possible contributor to one’s fracture risk has been factored into the FRAX formula. However, the formula does provide a means of estimating one’s probability of suffering a hip fracture or major fracture within 10 years so can still be a useful tool.
Diagnosing osteoporosis itself involves calculations because osteoporosis is defined as a T score-the standard measure of bone density minus 2.5 or lower. However, osteoporosis can also be diagnosed if you have already had an osteoporotic fracture of the forearm, hip, shoulder or spine, in which case the answer to treat is clear. FRAX is meant to help determine whether or not to treat when the answer is not so clear.
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