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The complications of osteoporosis range from pain and depression to limited mobility, hospital admission, and nursing home care. Pain is usually related to fractures of the wrist, hip, and spine, the latter of which can lead to a loss of height, a stooping posture, as well as persistent back and neck pain. Vertebral compression fractures may occur with minimal stress, like coughing, lifting, or bending. More often than not, these types of fractures occur slowly without symptoms and involve the upper lumbar spine as well as the vertebrae of the middle and lower thoracic spine.

Limited mobility and reduced physical function can occur as a consequence of fractures, affecting the sufferer’s ability to move about freely and take care of him or herself. This loss of activity can lead to weight gain, thereby putting a greater amount of stress on the bones, especially on the knees and the hips. Weight gain can also put sufferers at a heightened risk of heart disease, diabetes, and various other health problems. Furthermore, the loss of independence, increased social isolation, and inability to do activities that the sufferer once enjoyed can quickly lead to depression.

Depression is considered to be both a risk factor and a complication of osteoporosis. One study suggests that women who are depressed have overactive immune systems that make too many inflammatory chemicals and therefore promote bone loss. Another study found that people above the age of 50 who regularly take antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, experience twice as many fractures as individuals who are not taking antidepressants. On the flip side, the emotional toll of osteoporosis can cause sufferers of the disease to become depressed, even if they have no symptoms of depression to begin with.

In terms of hospital admission and nursing home care, most osteoporotic fractures require surgery, which necessitates extended hospital stays and additional medical costs. Moreover, patients who are bedridden are more at risk for cardiovascular complications, are more exposed to infectious diseases, and are more susceptible to various other complications. Elderly patients who require long-term care will usually be placed in nursing homes, which is often the case for those with hip fractures. Alternatively, some hospitals will send their patients home with a plan for rehabilitation following their hip surgery. Osteoporotic hip fractures are most common in people in their 70s and 80s.

Beyond the health-related complications of osteoporosis, the socioeconomic impact of this disease can present various difficulties as well. First of all, there’s the financial burden of medical, hospital, and surgical care. In addition to these direct costs, there are the indirect costs that arise due to a loss of independence and therefore, the need for nursing care at home or in an institution. Then there’s the loss of income for adults who are still active in the workplace, due to a decrease in the number of total work days. All in all, these social and economic factors can prove to be troubling not only for the sufferer, but also for the family of the sufferer and the society as a whole.