Osteoporosis is a disease marked by decreasing bone mass, density, and quality, making bones weak and brittle. If left unchecked, it can lead to fractures. Any bone can be affected. Fractures of special concern are of the hip, spine, and wrist.
Osteoporosis is caused by an imbalance between bone loss and bone formation (known as bone remodeling). After age 30, bone loss occurs more quickly. Many factors over the course of a lifetime can influence bone remodeling.
Osteoporosis is more common in older adults. It is more common in women than in men. People of Caucasian, Asian, or Hispanic ethnicity are more likely to get osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is more likely to occur if full bone mass was not achieved during your bone-building years. Other factors that may increase your chance of osteoporosis include:
In most cases, people with osteoporosis remain symptom-free until there is a fracture. In those who do have symptoms, osteoporosis may cause:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
The density level of your bones may be tested. This can be done with:
The treatment and management of osteoporosis involves lifestyle changes and medications. Although osteoporosis is highly preventable, it cannot be cured. Treatment focuses on reducing the incidence of fractures and slowing bone loss.
Decrease your intake of alcohol. Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is in:
Do not smoke. If you smoke, talk with your doctor about ways you can successfully quit.
Exercise improves bone health. It also increases muscle strength, coordination, and balance. Do weight-bearing and strength-training exercises for maximum benefit. Balance training may help prevent falls and fractures.
People who do not eat enough calcium from food might want to take calcium supplements. Vitamin D and other supplements may also be advised. Talk with your doctor before taking herbs or supplements.
Falls can increase the chance of fracture in someone with osteoporosis. Here are ways to prevent falls:
Certain medications can help prevent bone loss, increase bone density, and reduce your risk of fractures. These may include:
Building strong bones throughout your early years is the best defense against osteoporosis. Getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and regular exercise can keep bones strong throughout life.
To help reduce your chance of osteoporosis:
NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center
National Osteoporosis Foundation
Women's Health Matters
Clinician's guide to prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Available at: https://www.nof.org/prevention/. Updated 2013. Accessed May 11, 2016.
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Making a diagnosis. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Available at: http://nof.org/articles/8. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Osteoporosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113815/Osteoporosis. Updated June 9, 2016. Accessed September 26, 2016.
Osteoporosis causes and risk factors. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T902594/Osteoporosis-causes-and-risk-factors. Updated August 27, 2016. Accessed September 26, 2016.
Osteoporosis tests. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00413. Updated August 2007. Accessed May 19, 2016.
Sambrook P, Cooper C. Osteoporosis. Lancet. 2006;367:2010-2018.
10/6/2006 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113815/Osteoporosis: Cockayne S, Adamson J, Lanham-New S, et al. Vitamin K and the prevention of fractures: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:1256-1261.
5/16/2008 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113815/Osteoporosis: Qaseem A, Snow V, Shekelle P, Hopkins R Jr, Forciea MA, Owens DK; Clinical Efficacy Assessment Subcommittee of the American College of Physicians. Screening for osteoporosis in men: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148:680-684.
1/30/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113815/Osteoporosis: Loke YK, Singh S, Furberg CD. Long-term use of thiazolidinediones and fractures in type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. CMAJ. 2009;180:32-39. Epub 2008 Dec 10.
12/29/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113815/Osteoporosis: Hippisley-Cox J, Coupland C. Predicting risk of osteoporotic fracture in men and women in England and Wales: prospective derivation and validation of QFractureScores. BMJ. 2009;339:b4229.
6/4/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113815/Osteoporosis: FDA approves new injectable osteoporosis treatment for postmenopausal women. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm214150.htm. Published June 1, 2010. Accessed June 4, 2015.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.