Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Male Osteoporosis: Bone Mass Matters

20% of people with osteoporosis are men. What causes it, and what can you do about it?
WebMD Feature

Real men get osteoporosis, too.

As many as 2 million American men already have osteoporosis, the bone thinning that makes bones brittle and porous and at likely to fracture. Twelve million men are at risk, and may have early signs of bone loss and low bone density, called osteopenia. But given that four times as many women have osteoporosis, men are less likely to end up with thin bones than women.

Recommended Related to Osteoporosis

Causes of Spinal Compression Fractures

If you're nearing age 60 and have back pain, don't assume it's a normal part of getting older. You could be affected by a spinal compression fracture. Back aches and pains can be a sign that small fractures are occurring in your vertebrae - the bones that form your spine. Soft, weakened bones are at the heart of this problem. Compression fractures are often caused by bone-thinning osteoporosis, especially if you are a postmenopausal woman over age 50. When bones are brittle, everyday activities...

Read the Causes of Spinal Compression Fractures article > >

Why this lower risk?

"Women live longer, so they're more likely to get osteoporosis," says Paul Mystkowski, MD, an endocrinologist at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle and clinical faculty member of the University of Washington in Seattle. And because men are generally more physically active over the course of their lives, he says, men are less likely to lose bone mass, since exercise has been shown to protect bone density.

But there's an even bigger difference with male osteoporosis.

"In general, osteoporosis in men is considered a symptom of something else," says Mystkowski, "whereas in older women, it's almost always postmenopausal."

And for many men, that "something" is hormonal.

Causes of Male Osteoporosis: Testosterone Deficiency

The most common cause of male osteoporosis is testosterone deficiency, says Mystkowski. "There's a clear consensus that when you're evaluating men with osteoporosis, you always evaluate for testosterone deficiency," he says.

For low-testosterone men, doctors may advise testosterone replacement to build bone mass. The dilemma is that science hasn't yet shown how much of the bone-building benefit is a direct testosterone effect -- or the result of turning testosterone into estrogen. "Probably the bulk of the benefit is the testosterone," Mystkowski says, "but it's important not to minimize the role of testosterone to estrogen conversion."

Men also need a small amount of estrogen, says Mystkowski. Estrogen preserves bone density -- in both men and women. In fact, all men normally convert testosterone to estrogen to build bone mass.

"If you look at men who lack an enzyme to make even small amounts of estrogen because they were genetically born that way," says Mystkowski, "they get osteoporosis. If you give them estrogen, their osteoporosis improves. So even though estrogen doesn't circulate in very high concentrations in men, it's a critical factor for bone health."

1 | 2 | 3 | 4
Next Article:

Osteoporosis Glossary

  • Bone Mineral Density - A measurement of the amount of calcium and minerals in bone tissue.
  • Calcium - A mineral in (and vital to) your bones. If your body lacks calcium, it takes it from bones.
  • DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) - a test used to measure bone mineral density.
  • Osteoporosis - A decrease in bone density, which increase the risk of fractures.
  • Vitamin D - A vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium.
  • View All Terms

How do you exercise for strong bones?