Osteoporosis Guide: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Osteoporosis Definition

Osteoporosis is a condition associated with the decline in the density of bones. A bone fracture can happen with minimal force which can lead to disability, chronic pain, and social isolation. Osteoporosis is most common among post-menopausal women in the United States, but it is also possible for men and children with certain conditions to be affected by it.

Osteoporosis patient discuss doctor advice on diagnosis and symptoms

Osteoporosis Symptoms

Many people do not know they have osteoporosis until they sustain one of these injuries! Osteoporosis is a condition that leads to fragile and brittle bones, this condition usually gets worse over time. This can lead to fractures and broken bones much more easily than healthy bones would.

The disease may make it easier for a person to break or fracture a bone due to a fall, an injury, or any other event.

Osteoporosis Signs and Symptoms:

  1. Easy fracture of bones
  2. Back pain
  3. Muscle cramps
  4. Joint pain
  5. Exhaustion
  6. Decreased libido
  7. Weight gain around the waistline
  8. Reduced tolerance for exercise
  9. Mood changes

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or are at a high risk for developing this disease, your doctor will probably advise you to stay as active as possible to avoid symptoms.

Osteoporosis Causes

There’s no way to tell exactly who will develop it, but there are certain factors that can increase your chances.

Top Causes of Osteoporosis:

1. Aging

Age brings about many changes to our body. One of the ways it affects us is by decreasing bone density and leading to osteoporosis. This is a disease that can lead to serious complications if not treated soon enough, and it’s more common among post-menopausal women. Luckily, there are ways to prevent and treat it. Speak with your doctor for more information on how this condition affects you.

2. Gender

Women are more susceptible to osteoporosis than men because they lose bone mass faster. This can be due to a variety of factors, including hormonal imbalance, postmenopausal lack of estrogen, and medical conditions such as anorexia nervosa or malabsorption syndrome.

3. Menopause in Women

Estrogen is responsible for rebuilding bones. After menopause, there’s a decrease of estrogen levels which makes it harder to maintain bone density. The decrease in estrogen can also lead to an increase in cortisol levels, which causes the rate of bone deterioration to increase.

4. Alcohol Drinking

Alcohol consumption has been found to increase the risk of osteoporosis. This is because alcohol can increase estrogen production by suppressing Testosterone levels which in turn affects bone density. High intake of alcohol has also been associated with a decrease in vitamin D, calcium and zinc intake, all of which are important for proper bone development and maintenance.

Alcohol can lead to this disease in two ways. When consumed in the form of wine, beer, or liquor, alcohol hinders the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, when people drink moderate amounts of alcohol on a regular basis, their body begins to break down the bone more quickly than it would otherwise.

alcohol drinking and tobacco smoking causes osteoporosis

5. Smoking Tobacco

Smoking is one of the leading causes of osteoporosis, which occurs when the bones weaken. Smoking tobacco increases bone turnover, which does not allow minerals to be properly deposited in bones. So, smoking doesn’t just cause lung cancer and heart disease; it also contributes to bone weakening.

Smoking has a negative impact on your bone health. It increases the risk of osteoporosis because it reduces the activity of osteoblasts, which are cells that build bone tissue. Smoking also decreases levels of calcium and vitamin D in the body, which breaks down bones as well as fractures them. In addition, it reduces blood flow to the skeleton which can lead to more severe fractures.

6. Being Too Thin or Underweight

If you are underweight, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. You should also consume a diet high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals. This is because the thinner your bones are, the more likely they are to break from a fall or other accident. Over time, being underweight also increases the risk for osteoporosis.

7. Paget’s Disease of Bone

Paget’s disease is a bone disorder that causes bones to break easily. Paget’s disease usually affects the spine, skull, and ribs. It may also cause other problems such as headaches and seizures. The first sign of Paget’s disease is a break in a bone. Paget’s disease also increases the risk of developing osteoporosis.

8. Osteomalacia

Osteomalacia is a nutritional disease that involves the softening of bones due to insufficient production of normal amounts of bone matrix. This condition is also referred to as “failure to thrive,” and it often affects children in developing nations who are deficient in vitamin D, protein, or calcium. As adults age, they may develop this disease.

9. Not Getting Enough Calcium

When the calcium levels in the body drop below normal, it causes bone cells to become inactive and stops them from creating new bone tissue. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body and it is vital for keeping our bones strong. One of the biggest barriers to getting enough calcium is that our bodies cannot produce it. This means we need to find ways to get more calcium into our diet such as through milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products.

not exercising and not getting enough calcium causes osteoporosis

10. Not Exercising Enough

Exercise is good for your bones. It stimulates the production of bone-building cells, keeps excess weight off, and helps to maintain a healthy balance of calcium by promoting the release of it from the bones. A regular exercise routine also helps to keep your joints healthy and strong so that you can continue to participate in daily activities without pain.

11. Prolonged Immobilization Due to Illness or Injury

Immobilization due to bed rest, surgery, or illness affects your body’s ability to absorb calcium and may cause osteoporosis. It can also lead to kidney disease and other chronic conditions.

prolonged immobilization due to illness causes osteoporosis

12. Having a Family History of The Disorder

The National Institutes of Health says that genetic factors account for about 50% of a person’s risk for developing osteoporosis. In other words, if one parent has osteoporosis, the other has a greater risk for developing it. If your mother or father have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you have a 50% increased chance of developing the disease yourself.

13. Treatments with Certain Drugs Such as Steroids and Hormones

When your body produces too many steroids (corticosteroids) or you intake steroids through treatment for a long time, the increased level of cortisol can damage your bones. This is because cortisol triggers cells, called osteoclasts, to break down bone tissue. Cortisol also increases levels of parathyroid hormone, which disrupts the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the blood. Together, these two actions weaken your bones and make them more fragile.

A common side effect of hormone treatment for breast or prostate cancer is bone loss. Bone can be lost within months. To avoid this, you should talk to your doctor about the benefits of taking a bisphosphonate drug. Bisphosphonates are used to strengthen bones and prevent fractures in people with osteoporosis. Also consult your doctor about taking over-the-counter supplement that contains calcium (1000 mg) and vitamin D3 (800 IU), which will boost your body’s ability to absorb calcium post the hormonal treatment.

Osteoporosis Diagnosis

Osteoporosis is typically diagnosed by the following methods:

  1. Taking a medical history
  2. Reviewing x-rays
  3. Testing calcium levels in the blood

A diagnosis of osteoporosis is typically based on a bone scan. The scan can identify the number of bones that are at risk for fracture, the size and density of the bones, and how much mineral content they have.

Osteoporosis is diagnosed using a DXA scan, which measures the amount of bone mineral in the patient’s spine and hip. It can also detect osteoporosis before it causes fractures.

Typically, an osteoporosis diagnosis in adults is given when T-scores are below -2.5 or in cases in which there are multiple fractures in one year.

Osteoporosis patient discuss doctor advice on causes and treatment

Osteoporosis Types

The disease typically occurs for those over 50 years old and has lost more than 20% of their bone mass from normal levels.

There are Two Types of Osteoporosis:

1. Primary Osteoporosis

Primary osteoporosis is the most common type of the disease and occurs when bone loss exceeds bone formation. Most cases of osteoporosis are primary.

2. Secondary Osteoporosis

Secondary osteoporosis occurs when there’s a lack of nutrients or hormones in the body, such as during menopause, AIDS, thyroid problems, or chronic excessive alcohol use.

Osteoporosis Treatment

How Osteoporosis is Treated?

The best treatment for osteoporosis for you may differ from what is best for someone else. The treatments depend on the severity of the condition and whether you’re a man or woman.

The treatment also includes lifestyle changes like weight-bearing exercise, stopping smoking, and getting enough vitamin D and calcium; prescription medications like hormone replacement therapy.

Osteoporosis Medications

The most common treatment is medication, but it’s also possible to receive injections, hormone therapy, joint replacement surgery, surgery to implant metal rods in your spine or to fuse vertebrae together. In some cases, surgery may be needed to correct the damaged spine because it can’t support the weight of the upper body or even lead to paralysis.

It is possible to treat osteoporosis, but it can be quite costly. If you have the symptoms, talk to your doctor about the best way for you to manage this disease.

Osteoporosis Prevention

The best way to prevent osteoporosis is by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and taking calcium supplements. It’s important for all adults, especially those with a family history or those who have risk factors such as smoking and not exercising, to talk with their doctor about prevention.

The best way to prevent this disease is to watch what you eat. Sodium, Protein, Calcium, Vitamin D and Magnesium are all important for healthy bones. High-impact exercise can be helpful as well because it builds up your bones.

Osteoporosis vs Osteopenia

Osteopenia is a bone disease that can eventually lead to osteoporosis, which is the most common bone disease in America. Osteopenia typically affects people between 40-60 years old, but it’s possible for younger people to develop it too. This condition often goes undiagnosed because of its similarities to osteoarthritis. The symptoms are the same- pain, inflammation, and decreased mobility- but they’re just more intense in osteopenia.

Can Osteoporosis Cause Pain?

Yes, it can cause pain in various areas of the body, including your back, hips, ribs, jaw, arms, and legs. When you have osteoporosis, your chances of bone fractures are greater because you have thinner bones. This, in turn, leads to increased risk of bone fractures. A fracture can cause pain because it changes the shape of the bone. It can also be painful if it leads to inflammation or infection.

Osteoporosis of The Spine

Living with Osteoporosis of The Spine

This is a condition that happens when the bones in the spine become fragile and break easily. Typically, it affects individuals who have been living with osteoporosis for a long time.

The consequences of this condition vary based on the specific location where it has set in. It can lead to spinal deformities and compression fractures if it occurs in the spine region. The vertebrae of the spine are a series of bony segments that give the spine its shape and support. The vertebrae also contain discs which keep them from rubbing together. With time, these discs become less elastic and the body produces less bone, leading to a narrowing at the top of the vertebrae.

living with osteoporosis of the spine

In order for osteoporosis to affect your spine, these changes must happen in your upper back two vertebrae levels. One of the most common problems encountered by patients is called a “spinal fracture” or a sudden break in the bones of the spine. This can lead to severe pain and loss of mobility. A spinal fracture may result from even a small amount of weight on an older person’s back, such as leaning against a countertop or sitting on a chair that is too low. The weak bone also puts pressure on the spinal cord, which can lead to numbness or pain from compression of nerve roots.

As a result, the vertebrae of the spine become narrower and more spongy as they lose their density. This can make it difficult for sufferers to stay erect, which can lead to more falls. In some cases, the vertebrae may collapse completely and lead to a condition called kyphosis or thoracic kyphosis which causes extreme curvature of the spine and an increased risk of compression fractures.

The patient may live with the condition under minimal medical supervision or a long term treatment, depending on the severity of the case.

Is Osteoporosis a Terminal Illness?

No, Osteoporosis is not a terminal illness. However, it can be a debilitating condition that may, in some cases, require hospitalization and treatment with medication such as hormone therapy, bisphosphonates, and calcitonin. There are also many self-care practices you can do at home to help prevent or minimize the progression of osteoporosis.

Can Osteoporosis Be Reversed?

Yes, Osteoporosis can be reversed, but it is sometimes difficult. One way to help reverse the disease is with medication that increases the production of osteoblasts, which are cells that form new bone. This can help build up bone mass and strength. Regular exercise may also help reduce the illness, since it helps strengthen bones and reduces the risk of fractures.


Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become weak. It mainly affects older people, but it can also affect people of any age who have another medical condition or take certain medications.

Osteoporosis affects close to 200 million people worldwide. The risk for developing the disease increases when an individual has a low body weight, low bone mineral density, or uses steroid medications. A person is said to have osteoporosis when they have a low bone density as a result of aging.

The most common risk factors include being female, being Caucasian, being over the age of 50, and not doing enough weight-bearing exercise.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, Hispanics are at an elevated risk for developing this disease. Mexican Americans who reside in the Southwest U.S. are at an even higher risk because of Hispanics’ tendency to be thinner and taller than average Americans, which increases their likelihood of having multiple vertebrae that compress together and cause bone loss.

Menopausal women are at the highest risk of developing this disorder because their bodies are generally less able to maintain bone density. Alcohol and smoking are two of serious causes of osteoporosis, which must be avoided.

Living a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy foods and drinks, exercising regularly and avoiding all causes of injuries and diseases would help us preventing osteoporosis.

If you have enjoyed this story, you may want to checkout Men’s Sports Over 40: Your Guide to Top Recommended Healthy Sports.

Useful resources:

M.D Mark D. - Healthline Gate Health and Medical Articles Author

About The Author

M.D Mark D. is a Health and Wellness professional writer. Mark has authored many health articles around the following topics: Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Fitness, Nutrition, Pets Health, Mental Health, Medicine, and Supplements.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *