What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease that affects your bones. It means you have
bones that are thin and brittle, with lots of holes inside them like a sponge.
This makes them easy to break. Osteoporosis can lead to broken bones (fractures) in the hip, spine, and wrist. These
fractures can be disabling and may make it hard for you to live on your
See a picture of
healthy bone versus bone weakened by osteoporosis .
affects millions of older adults. It usually strikes after age 60. It’s most
common in women, but men can get it too.
What causes osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is caused
by a lack of bone strength or
bone density. As you age, your bones get thinner
naturally. But some things can make you more likely to have the severe bone
thinning of osteoporosis. These things are called risk factors. Some risk
factors you can change. Others you can't change.
you can't change include:
- Your age. Your risk for osteoporosis goes up
as you get older.
- Being a woman who has gone through
menopause. After menopause, the body makes less
estrogen. Estrogen protects the body from bone loss.
- Your family
background. Osteoporosis tends to run in families.
- Having a
slender body frame.
- Your race. People of European and Asian
background are most likely to get osteoporosis.
Risk factors you can change
To check your risk for osteoporosis, use this
Interactive Tool: Are You At Risk for Osteoporosis?
What are the symptoms?
Osteoporosis can be very
far along before you notice it. Sometimes the first sign is a broken bone in
your hip, spine, or wrist after a bump or fall.
As the disease
gets worse, you may have other signs, such as pain in your back. You might
notice that you are not as tall as you used to be and that you have a
How is osteoporosis diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam. You may
also have a test that measures your bone thickness (bone density test) and your
risk for a fracture.
If the test finds that your bone thickness
is less than normal but is not osteoporosis, you may have
osteopenia, a less severe type of bone thinning.
It’s important to find and treat osteoporosis early to prevent
bone fractures. The
United States Preventive Services Task Force advises
routine bone density testing for women age 65 and older. If you have a higher
risk for fractures, it’s best to start getting the test sooner. Experts also suggest that older men talk to their doctors about osteoporosis and have bone density tests done if they are at risk.
How is it treated?