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Osteoporosis Health Center

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What Is Osteoporosis? What You Need to Know

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What is osteoporosis anyway? Is osteoporosis a normal sign of aging? Does osteoporosis only affect women? Read on to learn the facts about osteoporosis and your bones.

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a common disease that weakens bones. As bones weaken, your risk of sudden and unexpected fractures increases. Osteopenia is the forerunner of osteoporosis. It is a silent but destructive condition that robs bones during a woman's -- even a young woman's -- most productive time.

No matter what your age or sex, osteoporosis and osteopenia can affect you. Your bones might seem sturdy now. You may be very active and doing the things you want. But osteoporosis and osteopenia are quiet, accomplished thieves. In fact, there are usually no visible signs. You may notice a loss of height or a Dowager's hump over time. But chances are good that the first sign of these conditions will be a broken bone.

What Is Osteoporosis Bone Loss?

The bone loss with osteoporosis occurs over many years and can become severe. It may be so severe that the normal stress on bones from sitting, standing, coughing, or even hugging a loved one can result in painful fractures and immobility. Then, after the first fracture, you are at risk for more fractures. These future fractures may cause you to live with daily chronic pain and disability.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take now to help keep your bones strong.

What Are Osteoporosis Symptoms?

Osteoporosis often progresses without symptoms or pain. Losing height may be noticeable. Or a Dowager's hump in your spine may develop with age. Usually, though, a doctor diagnoses osteoporosis after a painful fracture occurs. That fracture is often in the back or hips.


What Is 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. A bone density test can detect osteopenia.

For more information, see WebMD's Bone Density Tests.

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