Osteoporosis – the silent disease by Dr Berlinda Png

October 19, 2021

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weak and lose their strength. Most people do not realise they have osteoporosis until a fracture happens, as there are usually no signs or symptoms. This is why osteoporosis is often called the ‘silent disease’.

Osteoporosis particularly affects women in their middle and later years, although some men are also affected.


Currently, the most reliable way to diagnose osteoporosis is to measure bone density with a dual-energy absorptiometry scan called a Bone Mineral Density (BMD) scan. This is a short, painless scan that measures the density of your bones, usually at the hip and spine. You can qualify for a Medicare rebate for a BMD scan if you:

  • have previously been diagnosed with osteoporosis
  • have had one or more fractures due to osteoporosis
  • are aged 70 years or over
  • have a chronic condition, including rheumatoid arthritis, coeliac disease or liver disease
  • have used corticosteroids for a long time.

Reduce your risk

There are many things you can do to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. If you have osteoporosis there are also things you can do to improve your bone health, and hopefully prevent your osteoporosis progressing, including:

  • Know your risk – ask your GP about your risk.
  • Ensure adequate calcium in your diet.
  • Maintain adequate vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is important because it helps your body absorb the calcium in your diet.
  • We obtain most of our vitamin D from the sun, and there are recommendations for safe sun exposure for sufficient vitamin D production, depending on your skin type, geographical location in Australia and the season.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Falls prevention – if you’ve either fallen before or you feel unsteady and are concerned you may fall, come and talk to us today.
  • Stop smoking – as well as the many other health issues related to smoking, it is also linked to reduced bone density.
  • Consume alcohol, caffeine and salt in moderation as they can affect your bone density. Alcohol also increases the risk of falling, and the chance of fracturing a bone.

Osteoporosis management

There is no standard treatment for osteoporosis. Your treatment will depend on your specific needs.
Generally, your overall risk of fracture will help your GP decide on the best course of treatment for you.