Bones contain a protein called collagen, calcium salts and other minerals as well as specialised bone cells. Each bone has a hard outer shell known as cortical bone which contains a mesh of tiny struts of trabecular bone, collagen (tough elastic fibres), minerals, blood vessels and bone marrow.
Healthy bones are dense with small spaces within the honeycomb-like mesh. In osteoporosis, the inner struts become thinner and the spaces become larger, making the bones weaker, less elastic and more fragile.
This loss of bone mass puts people with osteoporosis at a greater risk of breaking bones. In fact, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks.
Minor bumps or falls, or in some cases even coughing or sneezing, can cause fractures. These breaks, often known as fragility fractures, can occur anywhere but usually affect the hip, spine or wrist.
Broken bones will still usually heal in six to eight weeks but fractures can lead to a loss of mobility and general incapacity. Of the 60,000 people who suffer osteoporotic hip fractures each year, 15 to 20 per cent will die within a year from causes related to the fracture (Source: NHS Choices).
At Roche, our knowledge of osteoporosis and its impact on patients’ lives drives our commitment to provide cutting edge diagnostic solutions and medicines for this disease.