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6 Medical Conditions Linked to Osteoporosis and Bone Loss

Are you at risk for bone loss due to your medical condition?
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WebMD Feature

You probably know some of the leading risk factors for osteoporosis -- being female and past menopause, smoking, or having a small frame. But did you know that some fairly common medical conditions are also among the causes of osteoporosis bone loss?

If you have one of these conditions, either because of the disease itself or because of the medications you have to take to manage it, you face an increased risk of developing osteoporosis:

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1. Diabetes Mellitus and Osteoporosis

For reasons scientists still don't fully understand, people with type 1 diabetes tend to have lower bone density.

Studies show that people with type 1 diabetes may have low bone turnover and lower than normal bone formation.

"It seems that high blood sugar may shut down bone formation, just as with steroids," says Beatrice Edwards, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine and director of the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Since type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood, when the body is still building bone, someone with type 1 diabetes may never have the opportunity to reach their peak bone density. 

Even if their bone mass isn't that much lower than normal, people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have a much higher risk of fractures than other people, adds Edwards.  

2. Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Nearly 3 million adults in the U.S. have either lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Both of these diseases are autoimmune conditions, in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues, causing inflammation.

Any chronic inflammatory disease can put you at greater risk of osteoporosis, says Edwards, because it appears to increase the rate of bone turnover, in which old bone is replaced with healthy new bone. People with both lupus and RA usually take corticosteroids for an extended period of time to manage their symptoms. Long-term use of steroids such as prednisone is also a leading cause of osteoporosis, possibly because they slow the activity of bone-building cells.

Lupus is a particular problem because it is common in women between the ages of 15 and 45 -- often during the peak bone-building years up to age 30. "Anything that impedes the growth of bone during these years puts you at greater risk for osteoporosis," says Edwards.

3. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland -- a small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck -- becomes overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone.

"Hyperthyroidism increases the number of bone-remodeling cycles you go through," explains Edwards. "And after age 30, every bone-remodeling cycle is inefficient. You lose bone mass rather than building it. So the more cycles you go through, the more bone mass you lose."

Hyperparathyroidism, a similar condition involving related, but different glands, also ups the risk of osteoporosis.

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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

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