The nonskeletal consequences of osteoporotic fractures. Psychologic and social outcomes.
The prevalence of osteoporosis is rising as the population of the United States and other developed countries ages. These increasing numbers of people have motivated pharmaceutical companies to develop and market several antiresorptive medications that can slow down the bone loss associated with osteoporosis. Although these are not cures for this disease, they are an important first step in a vital ongoing public health effort to prevent osteoporosis in the future and to manage osteoporosis now. We cannot expect to remediate the problems caused by this disease if we attend only to its skeletal implications. Like any other chronic disease, osteoporosis has significant psychologic and social consequences. From anxiety and depression to social withdrawal and isolation, if these problems are left unresolved, they can have a significant negative impact not only on health issues but also on overall quality of life. No quick fixes exist for the numerous ways in which osteoporosis can transform an autonomous person into a dependent and hopeless patient. In part, responsibility for helping this patient rests with the medical community. Referrals to appropriate providers can improve a patient's physical and emotional well-being. Physician specialists can help the patient manage comorbid conditions. Physical and occupational therapists can teach exercises, home safety, and safe movement. Social workers can provide a framework for coping that enables individuals to improve their interpersonal interactions and minimize stress in their lives. Nutritionists, pharmacists, nurses, and other health care professionals can make major contributions to the quality of life of people with osteoporosis and should be encouraged to do so. Unfortunately, managed care has set policies that deprive patients with osteoporosis of the kinds of care that would be most useful to them. As we have advocated for the last 15 years, a multidisciplinary approach offers patients the most positive overall way to manage osteoporosis. Therefore, new alternatives need to be examined, alternatives that provide both low-cost and high-quality care. In the long run, patients who practice self-management, that is, those who take responsibility for their own calcium and vitamin D intake, are compliant with medications, exercise, and practice home safety, and who have a healthy outlook, can control their osteoporosis. The most effective intervention for the future may be to teach individuals how to use self-management strategies so that they can take charge of their osteoporosis and positively influence their quality of life.
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