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Is there is a link between osteoarthritis and osteoporosis?

Q) Is there a link between osteoarthritis and osteoporosis? If you have one of these conditions is there more chance that you may get the other? My mother had both. I had a hysterectomy at the age of 47, and was on HRT for five years. I recently had a DEXA scan and found that I have a condition called osteopenia.
Angela, Swindon, Wiltshire (Spring 2008)

A) For a long time rheumatologists have believed that there's an inverse relationship between osteoarthritis and osteoporosis – that is people are unlikely to have both conditions at the same time. In fact it was thought that having osteoporosis is protective against developing osteoarthritis. Now, the facts don't quite fit with this theory, although some of the evidence is still compelling. Against it are cases we see in everyday practice who present with a new hip joint (replaced because of osteoarthritis) and now with a fracture in another bone and osteoporosis, just like your mother. Osteopenia is used to describe bones that have lost calcium but not severely enough to call it osteoporosis. Usually both these conditions are diagnosed after a DEXA (bone density) scan, which gives a more precise estimate of the amount of calcium in the bones.

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Spring 2008 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

Send your questions for Dr Tom Margham to

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