Do men need better advice and treatment when they develop osteoporosis?
Do men need better advice and treatment when they develop osteoporosis? That is the question an Aberdeen researcher is hoping to answer as she studies how the brittle bone disease affects men. The condition is mainly associated with post-menopausal women, who are four times as likely to get osteoporosis than men. But men are also at risk. Grant Dr Alison Stewart, who is based at the University of Aberdeen’s Osteoporosis Research Unit, in Aberdeen, has been given a three-year 80,000 research fellowship by the Arthritis Research Campaign (ARC) to examine the differences between male and female sufferers. And Dr Stewart said many men could be failing to take their condition seriously enough because they thought it did not affect them. I thought it was just a condition that menopausal women got Malcolm Stewart “We suspect that men will not go for their scans because we don’t think they’re aware that osteoporosis is a condition that affects them. “Women are bombarded with information about HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and the menopause in magazines, but men don’t think much about it. “We want to know if it’s going to be cost effective to target men because if they don’t turn up for their appointment in sufficient numbers it won’t be worth doing.” Now, as part of the new Fracture Liaison Service in the city, all men and women attending the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with a fracture will be automatically referred for bone density checks. AsthmaticWhen Malcolm Stewart, of Chesterfield, was first diagnosed with osteoporosis a decade ago things were very different. Malcolm, 48, knew little about the condition and friends and family knew even less. A chronic asthmatic, he was prescribed high dose steroid tablets, but their long-term use put him at a higher risk of osteoporosis. He first noticed problems when he suffered collapsed vertebrae in his spine. Tests then showed he had the bone density of an 80-year-old man. “When I was first told about it I was surprised I had osteoporosis, but now I know different. Before this I thought it was just a condition that menopausal women got. “I couldn’t find any literature about it. “I would advise other men at risk to get themselves checked out.” Pain Malcolm’s condition was so chronic he had to give up work because his back was too painful to to sit at his desk all day. But he now looks at this as part of his recovery programme. “I now take retirement as part of the treatment.” Ten years on Malcolm’s condition is stable, but he still has to take care. “I have to do things in moderation and there are limitations. “It has definitely changed the way I do things. “If I do things one day I have to rest the next day,” he said. Jane Tadman, for the Arthritis Research Campaign, said it is vital to raise the profile of the disease among men to help people like Malcolm before their condition becomes too advanced. “Many people are very surprised to learn that men can get osteoporosis as well as women. “Raising awareness of this fact – by ourselves and others – is vital if the condition is to be properly diagnosed and treated. We hope our research in this area will make a difference to men with osteoporosis.” Brittle Emma Burrows, of the National Osteoporosis Society, agreed: “Osteoporosis is widely regarded as a women’s disease, because it affects one in three women during their lifetime. “However, osteoporosis also affects as many as one in 12 men at some stage of their life, with up to 20% of vertebral (spinal) fractures and 30% of hip fractures occurring in men. “As the first sign that someone is suffering from osteoporosis can often be when they break a bone, it is essential that men are as aware of their risk of the disease and women, and see their GP if they are at all worried.” (Source: BBC, Jane Elliot, 21 June, 2003, 22:58 GMT 23:58 UK)