Osteoporosis: Signs & Symptoms


1. What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a common bone condition that categorizes the bones as becoming more susceptible to fractures. Our body is constantly regenerating new bone to replace old bone. When there is imbalance and too much bone is lost and too little is made, osteoporosis occurs, thus the fracture risk increases.  Broken bones can happen from minor falls, trauma or the bones can break spontaneously on their own.


2. Who is at risk for osteoporosis?

One’s risk depends on:

  • Age – bone density declines faster after the age of 50
  • Gender – women have a higher risk
  • Race- white and Asians have a higher risk
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Diet
  • Deficiencies of vitamin D or calcium
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol increases risk
  • Body weight – people who have a lower body mass index are at higher risk
  • Medications – corticosteroids and androgen receptor blockers increase risk
  • Medical conditions – those with rheumatoid arthritis have a higher risk


3. What are early signs of osteoporosis?

A lot of individuals with osteoporosis do not know they have it until they experience a broken bone. Early signs and symptoms of osteoporosis can include:

  • Back or bone pain caused by collapsed or fractured vertebra
  • Frequent fractures
  • Loss of height due to compressed vertebrae
  • Stooped posture or “Dowager’s hump”


4. How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

Osteoporosis is diagnosed by a bone density test, which measures your bone mineral density (BMD) in an area of bone. A dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) is the most common bone density test. Bone mineral density testing with DEXA is recommended for all women age 65 years or older years and men age 70 years or older, and not more frequently than every 2 years. Younger postmenopausal women and men ages 50-69 years should undergo screening if they have risk factors for osteoporosis. Some people are not diagnosed with osteoporosis until they suffer a fragility fracture. A fragility fracture occurs as a result of falling from standing height or less. A person can also be diagnosed with osteoporosis after finding fractures they did not know they had on routine exams.


5. How can osteoporosis be treated?  Prevented?

There are different treatment options available for patients with osteoporosis. For years, bisphosphonate medications have been the first line, standard of care, for most patients with osteoporosis. These inexpensive drugs have been safely used long term and they have been shown to decrease the risk of both hip and spine fractures. Bisphosphonates are routinely prescribed by most primary care doctors, without needing a specialist consultation. There are other medications available for those who cannot take bisphosphonates, or for those who require stronger treatment.

To prevent development of osteoporosis:

  • Maintain an intake of adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D
    • Calcium from the diet is better than from supplements
    • Vitamin D is not easy to get from the diet so it is best to take a supplement
  • Exercise regularly and include routine weight bearing exercises
    • progressive muscle resistance training is the best type of muscle-strengthening exercise for your bones
  • Avoid smoking, and avoid drinking an excessive amount of alcohol



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