Dr Samar Al Emadi, Head of Rheumatology Division at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC)  said that in recent years, her team has made major strides towards educating the public about the importance of good bone health.

The HMC Rheumatology Division uses the latest technology and medication to diagnose and treat patients with osteoporosis and is continuing to collaborate with specialists across the globe to ensure patients in Qatar have access to world-class care.

According to Dr Al Emadi, there is clear evidence that timely testing is critical to faster diagnosis, prompter treatment and better outcomes in many medical conditions, including osteoporosis.

Today, she said that many people are more educated about the importance of good bone health and they understand that osteoporosis is not just a disease of the elderly. However, many people remain unaware that osteoporosis is a largely preventable disease.

Our team is working with international experts to prepare an Osteoporosis Treatment Guideline as part of efforts to standardise osteoporosis care in Qatar.

Last year we launched a national osteoporosis screening programme and we recently introduced a programme that will see all patients age 50 years and above who have experienced a fracture screened for the disease.

The Rheumatology and Orthopedic Departments are currently finalising plans to open a Fracture Liaison Clinic later this year. The main aim for the clinic will be to identify patients with fragility (low impact trauma) fractures who have osteoporosis so that treatment can be started in the hope of preventing further fractures.

Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease as patients seldom have signs or symptoms until a fracture occurs. While risk factors for the condition include older age, a family history of osteoporosis, low body weight, smoking, certain medical conditions and some medications, such as steroids (cortisone), and gender – with the disease being more common in women – many people with osteoporosis continue to go undiagnosed and untreated.

Rheumatology Consultant Dr Nabeel Abdulla said that healthcare professionals play an important role in educating patients about bone health. Healthcare providers who have female patients over 50 years old should prioritise bone health, noting that early identification and treatment of low bone density is the most effective approach to preventing future fractures.

Osteoporosis weakens the bones and can lead to painful fractures or severe disability. One in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 might be affected by osteoporosis during their lifetime.

The condition can lead to fractures that can lead to chronic pain, depression, and even reduced life expectancy. Both doctors and patients should be educated about this disease, and in particular about early symptoms. Sudden severe backache (due to a fractured or collapsed vertebra), gradual loss of height and an accompanying stooped posture, and fractures that occur with minor trauma should all be viewed as possible warning signs, says Dr Abdulla.

A bone mineral density test (BMD) and/or a fracture risk assessment can be important diagnostic tools and can help guide treatment options. Once the disease is identified, treatment can help strengthen bones and prevent further fractures.

Associate Rheumatology Consultant Dr Omar Alsaed added that it is important for patients who have been prescribed osteoporosis medication to ensure they take it as directed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost every aspect of how healthcare is delivered and it has also, unfortunately, resulted in the sharing of some incorrect and damaging health advice. Dr Alsaed said that if your doctor prescribed a medicine to treat your condition, you should never stop taking the medication, or change the dosage, without your doctor’s approval.

There is no known interaction between COVID-19 infection and osteoporosis medications. Any patient who has questions or concerns about their osteoporosis treatment plan should talk to their doctor. Osteoporosis can’t be cured, but with medication and lifestyle changes, you can slow or even stop it.

Patients with osteoporosis should make every effort to attend all scheduled medical appointments as ongoing treatment is an important part of managing the disease.

The Rheumatology Division is working with the HMC Home Health Care Service to provide in-home care to patients who regularly receive injection every six months as part of their treatment, to ensure they continue to receive medication on time. They are also collaborating with the home care service to offer in-home treatment to osteoporosis patients most at risk for severe COVID-19 illness.

Visit hamad.qa for updates and more information about the soon-to-open Fracture Liaison Clinic.