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Wrist Fractures Commonly Indicate Osteoporosis

A new study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery shows that women who fracture a wrist within 10 years of entering menopause are at a significantly higher risk of developing osteoporosis compared to post-menopausal women who have not had any wrist fractures. According to the researchers, women younger than 66 who sustain a wrist fracture should receive bone mineral density (BMD) tests to determine whether they should be treated for osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease.

Lead researcher Carlos Wigderowitz, PhD and his research team measured the bone density of 31 women between the ages of 40 and 82 who had experienced a certain type of wrist fracture called a Colles’ fracture. The results of the tests were compared to those of 289 healthy women between the ages of 20 and 83 with no history of wrist fractures. Bone mineral density measurements were found to be significantly lower in the women with fractures than the healthy women, with the most noticeable difference in women between the ages of 41 and 66. Researchers noted that the women who experienced wrist fractures within 10 years of menopause were eight times as likely to develop osteoporosis. However, this considerably high risk of osteoporosis decreases again when a woman reaches age 70.

Felicia Cosman, MD, clinical director of the National Osteoporosis Foundations said that all fractures that occur in adults are caused, in part, by osteoporosis. Fractures from osteoporosis are possible in any bone, but are most common in the wrist, hip, and spine. Osteoporosis affects roughly 25 million Americans and is currently one of the most under-diagnosed and under-treated disorders in medicine. It is estimated that one third of all women over age 50 have osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes more than 1.5 million bone fractures each year, including 250,000 wrist fractures. According to the National Institutes of Health, the estimated cost for hospital and nursing home care of men and women with injuries related to osteoporosis is $14 billion.

Based on the conclusions of the study, the researchers recommend that all post-menopausal women under age 66 who experience a wrist fracture receive a bone mineral density test to determine whether they have osteoporosis. The younger a woman is after she reaches menopause, the greater her bone deficiency, said Wigderowitz. The researchers have just completed another study on osteoporosis that confirms the results of this study.

Women who are shown to have low bone mineral densities are usually placed on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or prescribed raloxifene, alendronate, or calcitonin in addition to a calcium and Vitamin D-rich diet .

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