Osteoporosis is a disease where bones are weak and more likely to break. It’s often not diagnosed until a bone breaks after a small amount of trauma that would not cause a break in someone with healthy bones.

Cause of Osteoporosis

Your body is constantly removing damaged cells and replacing them with healthy cells. Osteoporosis is caused by your body not replacing the bone cells as fast as it removes damaged bone cells, so there are fewer bone cells over time. As a result, your bones get weaker.

Osteoporosis Facts

  • Osteoporosis is strongly linked with getting older, and over half of US adults over 50 have osteoporosis or are at increased risk of having it.
  • Some diseases, such as cancers or autoimmune conditions, and some medications, such as corticosteroids, can increase your risk of having osteoporosis.
  • Osteoporosis is more common in women than in men.

Preventing Osteoporosis

Preventing osteoporosis starts when you’re young. Strong, healthy bones in your twenties will help prevent you from losing too much bone in the future.

Having good nutrition and doing weight-bearing exercise in your teens and twenties will build up your bones. Once you’re in your thirties, the nutrition and exercise can maintain your bone health but cannot make your bones stronger. Keeping the good habits will help keep your bones in good condition as you get older.

Screening for Osteoporosis

A bone density screening questionnaire can help you identify if you’re at risk of osteoporosis so you can take action.

You may also have a DEXA scan to determine how dense your bones are now, which can provide a baseline for the future or compare to a past scan. If you know you have osteoporosis, you can start treatment to hopefully reduce the risk of a fracture.

Treatment for Osteoporosis

Some medications can help slow the amount of bone you lose, so that it’s not getting removed faster than it is getting replaced. However, there are no current ways to give you back bone that you have lost. Talk to your doctor about medications that might be right for you.

If you break a bone due to osteoporosis, treatments are available to help stabilize the break. If you get a spinal compression fracture, for example, the minimally invasive kyphoplasty procedure can help with the pain. If you break your hip, you can get a hip replacement.