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Osteoporosis

A disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced, leading to weakness of the skeleton and increased risk of fracture, particularly of the spine, wrist, hip, pelvis, and upper arm. Osteoporosis and associated fractures are an important cause of mortality and morbidity.

In many affected people, bone loss is gradual and without warning signs until the disease is advanced. Osteoporosis is also known as "the silent crippler" because a person usually doesn't know they have it until it's too late. Unfortunately, in many cases, the first real "symptom" is a broken bone. Loss of height - with gradual curvature of the back (caused by vertebral compression fractures) may be the only physical sign of osteoporosis.

In the United States, osteoporosis causes more than 1.5 million fractures every year - most of them in the spine, hip, or wrist. And although it's often thought of as a women's disease, osteoporosis affects many men as well. About 8 million American women and 2 million American men have osteoporosis, and nearly 18 million more Americans may have low bone density. Even children aren't immune.