If you have osteoporosis, you may worry about your future. Because your bones are weak, you are more likely than average to break one of them. But not everyone who has osteoporosis breaks a bone.
What are my chances of breaking a bone?
If you have osteoporosis, you are most likely to break a bone in your spine, hip, or wrist. When you break a bone, doctors say you have a fracture.
With osteoporosis, your chances of breaking a bone depend on lots of things. We discuss some of those things below.
People with osteoporosis often break a bone when they fall down. So if you have this condition, one way to make a fracture less likely is to try not to fall. For more, see Preventing falls.
How strong your bones are
Your bone mineral density (BMD for short) tells your doctor how strong (dense) your bones are. It is measured with a DXA scan (see How do doctors diagnose osteoporosis?). The results are called your T score.
If you have a score lower than -2.5, you have osteoporosis. Without treatment, 12 in 100 people with osteoporosis will break a bone in the next two years.
If you have a score of -1 to -2.5, you have osteopenia. This means your bones are weak, but not as weak as in osteoporosis. About 2 in 100 people with osteopenia will break a bone because it's weak in the next year.
But your BMD isn't the only thing that affects your chances of breaking a bone.
How old you are
Your chances of breaking a bone are lower when you are younger.
Having broken a bone already
If you are 50 and have osteoporosis, your chances of breaking a bone in the next 10 years are only 5 in 100 (that means only 5 percent).
If you are 60 and have osteoporosis, your chances of breaking a bone in the next 10 years are more than 20 in 100 (that means more than 20 percent).
You are most likely to break a bone if you have already had one broken bone.
Of 100 women who have had one hip fracture, 14 get another one.
Of 100 women who have had a wrist fracture, 10 get another.
Of 100 women who have a fracture of their spine, 25 get several more.
This is partly because breaking a bone means that your bones have got weak. But breaking one bone, particularly in your spine, can make it more likely that you will break another one. Here's why.
If you break a bone in your spine, the other bones in your spine are under more stress.
If you break a bone in your hip, you may have problems walking and be more likely to fall again.
If you break a bone once, it makes the bone weaker and more likely to break again.