This topic talks about osteoporosis, including how to help prevent it and also how it is diagnosed and treated. For more information about how osteoporosis affects men see the topic Osteoporosis in Men.
Osteoporosis is a disease that affects your bones. It means that 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
affects millions of older adults. It usually strikes after age 60. It's most
common in women, but men can get it too.
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.
- Your age. Your risk 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.
- Having a
slender body frame
- Your family
background. Osteoporosis tends to run in families.
- Your race. People of European and Asian
background are most likely to get osteoporosis.
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
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. It's a less severe type of bone thinning.
It's important to find and treat osteoporosis early to prevent
bone fractures. Experts advise 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.
Treatment for osteoporosis includes medicine to reduce bone loss and to
build bone thickness. Medicine can also give you relief from pain caused by
fractures or other changes to your bones.