Throughout life, old bone is removed and new bone is added to your skeleton. After age 30, more bone is lost than replaced. If too much bone loss occurs, this may lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is more likely to occur if full bone mass was not achieved during your bone-building years.
Osteoporosis is more common in women than in men. Other factors that may increase your chance of developing osteoporosis include:
- Increasing age
- Low weight
- Alcohol abuse
- History of falls
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Postmenopausal status
- Certain conditions, such as:
- Use of certain medications, such as antidepressants, long-term heparin, corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, or antacids
- Low hormone levels (low estrogen levels in women, low testosterone levels in men)
- Inactive lifestyle
- Certain restrictive diets that may result in a deficit of calcium or vitamin D
- Too little sunlight (the effect of sun on the skin is a primary source of vitamin D)
- Certain cancers, including lymphoma and multiple myeloma
In most cases, people with osteoporosis remain symptom-free until there is a fracture. In those that do have symptoms, osteoporosis may cause:
- Severe back pain with fracture of the vertebrae, wrists, hips, or other bones
- Loss of height with stooped posture, a condition called kyphosis
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
Osteoporosis can be seen with bone mineral density (BMD) tests of the hip, spine, wrist, or other site. These may include:
- Central (preferred) or peripheral dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA)
- Quantitative ultrasound (QUS)
- Central or peripheral quantitative CT scan (QCT)
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:
- Dairy products
- Green leafy vegetables
- Canned fish with bones
- Calcium-fortified products
Do not smoke. If you smoke, talk with your doctor about ways to 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 cannot eat enough calcium from food might want to take calcium supplements. Vitamin D and other supplements may also be recommended. 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:
- Floors—Remove all loose wires, cords, and throw rugs. Minimize clutter. Make sure rugs are anchored and smooth. Keep furniture in its accustomed place.
- Bathrooms—Install grab bars and non-skid tape in the tub or shower.
- Lighting—Make sure halls, stairways, and entrances are well lit. Install a night light in your bathroom. Turn lights on if you get up in the middle of the night.
- Kitchen—Install non-skid rubber mats near sink and stove. Clean spills immediately.
- Stairs—Make sure treads, rails, and rugs are secure.
- Other precautions—Wear sturdy, rubber-soled shoes. Keep your intake of alcoholic beverages to a minimum. Ask your doctor whether any of your medications might cause you to fall.
Your doctor may prescribe medications to help prevent bone loss, increase bone density, and reduce your risk of fractures. These may include:
- Medications with estrogenic effects
- Other medications
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 developing osteoporosis, take these steps:
- Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
- Perform weight-bearing exercise
- Live a healthy lifestyle (no smoking, drink alcohol only in moderation)
- If you are a postmenopausal woman at high risk for bone fractures, medications may be appropriate to prevent osteoporosis
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 06/2013 -
- Update Date: 06/07/2013 -