High cost of diagnosis and treatment and lack of awareness among doctors discourage nearly 60 per cent of women susceptible to osteoporosis from undergoing diagnostic tests.
Though several middle-aged and older women are being diagnosed with spinal fracture, less than half are getting tested for osteoporosis, say doctors.
The reasons are plenty. The standard diagnosis is using Bone Mineral Density Test or BMD Test.
Dr Alexander Thomas, director of Bangalore Baptist Hospital and an orthopaedic surgeon himself, said, “BMD tests are very expensive and it costs `1,500 to test one part of the body. This discourages many from getting tested for osteoporosis which is advised for every woman aged above 45.”
According to the estimates of the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), every third woman aged over 50 breaks a bone due to osteoporosis, a progressive bone disease which reduces bone mass and density. Ahead of World Osteoporosis Day, IOF also revealed that osteoporosis affects 200 million women worldwide and a new spinal fracture occurs every 22 seconds.
Another reason why women don’t get tested for osteoporosis is that awareness among doctors is very low, Dr Sharan Shivaraj Patil, chief of orthopaedic services, Sparsh Hospital said.
“The treatment methods for osteoporosis are very murky and doctors are often confused about which method to follow.
“This leads to lack of enthusiasm among patients in seeking diagnosis and treatment,” he said. Medications cost a few thousands, so patients opt otherwise, he added.
However, Dr Joe Joseph Cherian, orthopaedic surgeon at St John’s Medical College and Hospital, thinks otherwise.
He said that BMD tests were not really necessary for diagnosing osteoporosis. “The test is expensive and osteoporosis can be detected using a good X-ray.
“So we generally do not advise it to patients,” he said.
Doctors further say that risk of osteoporotic fractures increases after the age of 50 in women because of fall in estrogen hormone levels. This leads to a rapid fall in bone mineral density.
Further, about 25 per cent of women aged over 60 years develop spinal compression fractures.
Dr Mahesh Bijjawara, consultant spine surgeon at Jain Institute of Spine Care & Research, said that women can prevent osteoporosis by being physically active, having sufficient calcium and a check on alcohol consumption and smoking.
“Osteoporosis is referred to as the ‘silent epidemic’ as it often goes undiagnosed prior to a fracture.
“Having calcium supplements is also helpful,” he added.