Skip to content

    Osteoporosis Health Center

    Select An Article

    Osteopenia: Early Signs of Bone Loss

    Font Size

    About 18 million Americans have osteopenia. Osteopenia refers to early signs of bone loss that can turn into osteoporosis. With osteopenia, bone mineral density is lower than normal. However, it is not yet low enough to be considered osteoporosis.

    Not everyone who has osteopenia develops osteoporosis. But osteopenia can turn into osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can result in easily fractured bones and other very serious bone problems. When it is advanced, it can also cause disfigurement (from fractures in the spine) and lead to loss of mobility and independence, especially if the hip is fractured.

    Recommended Related to Osteoporosis

    Can You Reverse Osteoporosis?

    For many people, hearing "You have osteoporosis" is startling. Some hear it in the hospital after breaking a hip. Others get the news after getting a bone density test. Osteoporosis is most common in women after menopause, people with osteoporosis in their family, and people with a small frame. But others can also get it, raising their risk of bone fractures. Cutting that risk is crucial. About half of women and a quarter of men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture, notes...

    Read the Can You Reverse Osteoporosis? article > >

    How Is Osteopenia Diagnosed?

    Bone health is measured by bone density, which indicates the amount of minerals, such as calcium, in your bones. A higher bone density indicates stronger bones.

    To determine bone density, your health care provider will usually do a DXA bone scan.

    The amount of bone you have usually peaks around age 30. Then it begins to decline. Your body starts to reabsorb bone faster than new bone can be made.

    With aging, your body reabsorbs calcium and other minerals from your bones. This reabsorption can make your bones weaker and lead to osteopenia and osteoporosis. The bones become more vulnerable to fractures and other damage.

    What Are Some Risk Factors for Osteopenia and Osteoporosis?

    Risk factors for developing osteopenia are the same as those for developing osteoporosis. They include:

    • being female
    • being thin and/or having a small frame
    • getting too little calcium in the diet
    • smoking
    • leading an inactive lifestyle
    • a history of anorexia nervosa
    • a family history of osteoporosis
    • heavy alcohol consumption
    • early menopause

    Most people with osteopenia don't know they have it. In fact, the first sign may be a broken bone. A broken bone may mean that the condition has already become osteoporosis.

    For in-depth information, see WebMD's Self-Test: Check Your Risk.

    1 | 2 | 3
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Women working out and walking with weights
    Reduce bone loss and build stronger muscles.
    Chinese cabbage
    Calcium-rich foods to add to your diet.
    woman stretching
    Get the facts on osteoporosis.
    Porous bone
    Causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment.
    senior woman
    Woman holding plate of brocolli
    wrist xray
    Superfood for Bones
    mature woman
    sunlight in hands
    man and woman in front of xray
    woman with dumbbells