Osteoporosis - a casualty of lockdown

Published on 22nd January 2021


It is estimated that there are more than 3 million sufferers of osteoporosis in UK with over 500,000 fragility fractures each year. This figure is set rise due, in part, to the devastating effect of lockdown.

The term osteoporosis is used to describe a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. The result of this low bone density is that bones lose strength, become weak, and may break from a fall or even minor bumps.

Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” Viewed under a microscope, healthy bone looks like a honeycomb. When osteoporosis occurs, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are much larger than in healthy bone.

Women are far more susceptible to osteoporosis as bone loss becomes more rapid after the menopause, when sex hormone levels decrease. However, one in five men also break a bone after the age of 50 years because of low bone strength.

Vitamin D is essential for musculoskeletal health and bone strength. It promotes:

  • calcium absorption from the bowel
  • mineralisation of bone
  • muscle function support

It is known as the Sunshine Vitamin as it is produced by  the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight. (It does also occur naturally in some foods; notably fish, eggs and grains).

The importance of Vitamin D on bone health has been highlighted by the Royal Osteoporosis Society and identifies adults most at risk of a Vitamin D deficiency. These include people who have low or no exposure to the sun; for example, those who are housebound or who are confined indoors for long periods.

Weight bearing exercise is also critical for maintenance of strong bones. Studies have demonstrated that exercise helps:

  • promote osteoblast (bone-building) activity
  • inhibit osteoclast (bone dissolving) activity

It is clear that Vitamin D deficiency and lack of exercise will be a considerable issue for those who have been shielding this year due to COVID-19. The inability to maintain an healthy, active lifestyle and receive enough sun exposure, will inevitably lead to worsening symptoms of osteoporosis. A casualty of lockdown.

For more about the pathologies of the skeletal system


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