Osteoporosis in the Middle East and Africa

Bone fractures from osteoporosis predicted to rise

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A recent report released predicts a dramatic rise in osteoporotic bone fractures throughout Middle Eastern and African countries.

The risk of suffering a bone fracture increases as a person ages. By mid-century, almost half of the Middle East's population will be over 50, and at risk for developing osteoporosis.

But education and awareness about the condition is currently lacking, laying the groundwork for a widespread public health problem.

"Ask your doctor about osteoporosis risks."

Osteoporosis is a disease that is characterized by loss of bone density and quality. It makes bones fragile. A bump or fall that a healthy body would easily recover from, can lead to serious fracture in a person with osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis and related fractures can eventually cause death. It's more common among post-menopausal women, but the condition affects older men as well. Among aging populations – where the number of people over 50 is high compared to young or working-aged people – osteoporosis can be a major burden for national healthcare systems.

The world's population is aging, as a whole. According to the report, titled 'The Middle East & Africa Regional Audit,' approximately 1.6 million hip fractures occur worldwide each year. By 2050 this number could triple or quadruple and reach between 4.5 and 6.3 million. The Middle East and Africa has the highest projected projected increase in hip fractures, compared with many other regions worldwide. This means that the region must prepare to deal with osteoporosis.

However, the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) report warns that the Middle East and Africa are woefully underprepared. The report says that awareness about osteoporosis among healthcare professionals is “poor to medium.” Doctors don't even learn about osteoporosis in most countries.

In Kenya, most practitioners are ill-equipped to diagnose and treat the disease. The fight against infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, has taken precedence and left osteoporosis, known as “the silent disease,” behind.

The report points to widespread vitamin D deficiency in the Middle East as one of the reasons why there has been a proportionately high incidence of fractures there in recent years. Vitamin D is essential for building healthy bones. But in the Middle East, vitamin D deficiency rates are estimated to be between 50 – 90 percent.

The report recommends that Middle Eastern and African countries launch campaigns to raise awareness of osteoporosis, and that people take vitamin D supplements. Dr. med Gemma Adib, an author of the report, stated that it's important for regions to develop vitamin D supplementation strategies based on local data.

The concern is that continuing to ignore region-wide risk of osteoporotic fractures could eventually lead to widespread suffering and premature deaths, loss of productivity for both individuals and society, and more people depending on family for long-term care.

The publication of The Middle East and Africa Regional Audit was supported by an unrestricted grant from Servier and Fonterra, and was launched in conjunction with the first Middle East and Africa Osteoporosis Meeting, held in late October 2011.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 24, 2011
Last Updated:
October 28, 2011