Osteoporosis is the thinning and loss of density in the bones. Osteoporosis makes the bones more brittle, fragile, and likely to break (fracture). Over time, osteoporosis can cause the bones to become so weak that they fracture after a simple fall. The bones most likely to fracture are the bones in the hip, wrist, and spine.
The exact cause is not known.
Anyone can develop osteoporosis. You may be at greater risk if you have a family history of the condition or have poor nutrition. You may also have a higher risk if you are:
- 50 years old or older.
- A smoker.
- Not physically active.
- White or Asian.
A fracture might be the first sign of the disease, especially if it results from a fall or injury that would not usually cause a bone to break. Other signs and symptoms include:
- Low back and neck pain.
- Stooped posture.
- Height loss.
To make a diagnosis, your health care provider may:
- Take a medical history.
- Perform a physical exam.
- Order tests, such as:
- A bone mineral density test.
- A dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry test.
The goal of osteoporosis treatment is to strengthen your bones to reduce your risk of a fracture. Treatment may involve:
- Making lifestyle changes, such as:
- Eating a diet rich in calcium.
- Doing weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises.
- Stopping tobacco use.
- Limiting alcohol intake.
- Taking medicine to slow the process of bone loss or to increase bone density.
- Monitoring your levels of calcium and vitamin D.
- Include calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Calcium is important for bone health, and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium.
- Perform weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises as directed by your health care provider.
- Do not use any tobacco products, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and electronic cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
- Take medicines only as directed by your health care provider.
- Keep all follow-up visits as directed by your health care provider. This is important.
- Take precautions at home to lower your risk of falling, such as:
- Keeping rooms well lit and clutter free.
- Installing safety rails on stairs.
- Using rubber mats in the bathroom and other areas that are often wet or slippery.
You fall or injure yourself.