Osteoporosis - Symptoms and causes (2022)

Overview

Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle — so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses such as bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine.

Bone is living tissue that is constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn't keep up with the loss of old bone.

Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races. But white and Asian women, especially older women who are past menopause, are at highest risk. Medications, healthy diet and weight-bearing exercise can help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones.

Symptoms

There typically are no symptoms in the early stages of bone loss. But once your bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, you might have signs and symptoms that include:

  • Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
  • Loss of height over time
  • A stooped posture
  • A bone that breaks much more easily than expected

When to see a doctor

You might want to talk to your doctor about osteoporosis if you went through early menopause or took corticosteroids for several months at a time, or if either of your parents had hip fractures.

Request an Appointment at Mayo Clinic

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

(Video) Osteoporosis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Causes

Osteoporosis weakens bone

Osteoporosis - Symptoms and causes (1)

(Video) Signs and Symptoms of Endocrine Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis weakens bone

Under a microscope, healthy bone has the appearance of a honeycomb matrix (top). Osteoporotic bone (bottom) is more porous.

Your bones are in a constant state of renewal — new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When you're young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone and your bone mass increases. After the early 20s this process slows, and most people reach their peak bone mass by age 30. As people age, bone mass is lost faster than it's created.

How likely you are to develop osteoporosis depends partly on how much bone mass you attained in your youth. Peak bone mass is partly inherited and varies also by ethnic group. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have "in the bank" and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.

Risk factors

A number of factors can increase the likelihood that you'll develop osteoporosis — including your age, race, lifestyle choices, and medical conditions and treatments.

Unchangeable risks

Some risk factors for osteoporosis are out of your control, including:

  • Your sex. Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than are men.
  • Age. The older you get, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
  • Race. You're at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you're white or of Asian descent.
  • Family history. Having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at greater risk, especially if your mother or father fractured a hip.
  • Body frame size. Men and women who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they might have less bone mass to draw from as they age.

Hormone levels

Osteoporosis is more common in people who have too much or too little of certain hormones in their bodies. Examples include:

  • Sex hormones. Lowered sex hormone levels tend to weaken bone. The fall in estrogen levels in women at menopause is one of the strongest risk factors for developing osteoporosis. Treatments for prostate cancer that reduce testosterone levels in men and treatments for breast cancer that reduce estrogen levels in women are likely to accelerate bone loss.
  • Thyroid problems. Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. This can occur if your thyroid is overactive or if you take too much thyroid hormone medication to treat an underactive thyroid.
  • Other glands. Osteoporosis has also been associated with overactive parathyroid and adrenal glands.

Dietary factors

Osteoporosis is more likely to occur in people who have:

  • Low calcium intake. A lifelong lack of calcium plays a role in the development of osteoporosis. Low calcium intake contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
  • Eating disorders. Severely restricting food intake and being underweight weakens bone in both men and women.
  • Gastrointestinal surgery. Surgery to reduce the size of your stomach or to remove part of the intestine limits the amount of surface area available to absorb nutrients, including calcium. These surgeries include those to help you lose weight and for other gastrointestinal disorders.

Steroids and other medications

Long-term use of oral or injected corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone and cortisone, interferes with the bone-rebuilding process. Osteoporosis has also been associated with medications used to combat or prevent:

  • Seizures
  • Gastric reflux
  • Cancer
  • Transplant rejection

Medical conditions

The risk of osteoporosis is higher in people who have certain medical problems, including:

  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Lifestyle choices

Some bad habits can increase your risk of osteoporosis. Examples include:

  • Sedentary lifestyle. People who spend a lot of time sitting have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do those who are more active. Any weight-bearing exercise and activities that promote balance and good posture are beneficial for your bones, but walking, running, jumping, dancing and weightlifting seem particularly helpful.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption. Regular consumption of more than two alcoholic drinks a day increases the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Tobacco use. The exact role tobacco plays in osteoporosis isn't clear, but it has been shown that tobacco use contributes to weak bones.

Complications

Compression fractures

Osteoporosis - Symptoms and causes (2)

Compression fractures

The bones that make up your spine (vertebrae) can weaken to the point that they crumple and collapse, which may result in back pain, lost height and a hunched posture.

(Video) Preventing Fractures: Signs, Risk Factors of Osteoporosis

Bone fractures, particularly in the spine or hip, are the most serious complications of osteoporosis. Hip fractures often are caused by a fall and can result in disability and even an increased risk of death within the first year after the injury.

In some cases, spinal fractures can occur even if you haven't fallen. The bones that make up your spine (vertebrae) can weaken to the point of collapsing, which can result in back pain, lost height and a hunched forward posture.

Prevention

Good nutrition and regular exercise are essential for keeping your bones healthy throughout your life.

Calcium

Men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. This daily amount increases to 1,200 milligrams when women turn 50 and men turn 70.

Good sources of calcium include:

  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Canned salmon or sardines with bones
  • Soy products, such as tofu
  • Calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice

If you find it difficult to get enough calcium from your diet, consider taking calcium supplements. However, too much calcium has been linked to kidney stones. Although yet unclear, some experts suggest that too much calcium, especially in supplements, can increase the risk of heart disease.

The Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that total calcium intake, from supplements and diet combined, should be no more than 2,000 milligrams daily for people older than 50.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D improves the body's ability to absorb calcium and improves bone health in other ways. People can get some of their vitamin D from sunlight, but this might not be a good source if you live in a high latitude, if you're housebound, or if you regularly use sunscreen or avoid the sun because of the risk of skin cancer.

(Video) Osteoporosis - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology

Dietary sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, trout and salmon. Many types of milk and cereal have been fortified with vitamin D.

Most people need at least 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day. That recommendation increases to 800 IU a day after age 70.

People without other sources of vitamin D and especially with limited sun exposure might need a supplement. Most multivitamin products contain between 600 and 800 IU of vitamin D. Up to 4,000 IU of vitamin D a day is safe for most people.

Exercise

Exercise can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss. Exercise will benefit your bones no matter when you start, but you'll gain the most benefits if you start exercising regularly when you're young and continue to exercise throughout your life.

Combine strength training exercises with weight-bearing and balance exercises. Strength training helps strengthen muscles and bones in your arms and upper spine. Weight-bearing exercises — such as walking, jogging, running, stair climbing, skipping rope, skiing and impact-producing sports — affect mainly the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine. Balance exercises such as tai chi can reduce your risk of falling especially as you get older.

More Information

  • Exercising with osteoporosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Aug. 21, 2021

FAQs

What are 5 symptoms of osteoporosis? ›

Kuchynski says, include:
  • Fragility-related fractures. These occur when even mild impact causes a fracture of the wrist, back, hip or other bones.
  • Height loss. More than two inches in height can be lost over time.
  • Receding gums. ...
  • A curved, stooped shape to the spine. ...
  • Lower back pain.
13 Dec 2017

What is the main cause of osteoporosis? ›

A lifelong lack of calcium plays a role in the development of osteoporosis. Low calcium intake contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures. Eating disorders. Severely restricting food intake and being underweight weakens bone in both men and women.

What are the early warning signs of osteoporosis? ›

7 Early Warning Signs of Osteoporosis
  • Low bone density. Low bone density is a condition where your bone density is lower than average but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis. ...
  • Fracture. ...
  • Poor posture. ...
  • Family history. ...
  • Gums that are receding. ...
  • Brittle and weak fingernails. ...
  • Problems holding objects in your hands.
6 Aug 2022

Is osteoporosis curable? ›

The short answer is no, osteoporosis cannot be completely reversed and is not considered curable, but there are a number of health and lifestyle adjustments you can make to improve bone loss. Your provider may also prescribe you medications to help rebuild and slow down bone loss.

What are the 3 warning signs of osteoporosis? ›

Once osteoporosis has set in and your bones have weakened, watch for these three warning signs: A stooped posture and even a loss of height over time. Back pain that could be caused by a collapsed or fractured vertebra in your back. A bone that breaks more easily than expected.

What is the most common and frequent symptom of osteoporosis? ›

Osteoporosis is called a “silent” disease” because there are typically no symptoms until a bone is broken or one or more vertebrae collapse (fracture). Symptoms of vertebral fracture include severe back pain, loss of height, or spine malformations such as a stooped or hunched posture (kyphosis).

What is the life expectancy of a person with osteoporosis? ›

The corresponding mortality at 5 years was 48.2% (24.6%) in men and 28.3% (31.9%) in women. At 10 years, mortality was 69.7% (45.4%) in men and 50.2% (50.8%) in women.

Should I worry if I have osteoporosis? ›

Why Should I Be Concerned About Osteoporosis? Osteoporosis makes bone breaks more likely, especially in the hip, spine and wrist. According to NOF, 20 percent of seniors who break a hip die within one year, either from complications from the break or from surgery to repair it.

Does osteoporosis make you tired? ›

Tiredness/fatigue, sleeping problems and breathlessness were other physical problems affecting the people we talked with. People commented that pain and tiredness often went together because pain made it hard to sleep, or even rest.

How quickly does osteoporosis progress? ›

While some bone is lost each year, the rate of bone loss increases dramatically in the 5 to 10 years after menopause. Then, for several years, the breakdown of bone occurs at a much greater pace than the building of new bone. This is the process that eventually causes osteoporosis.

What happens if osteoporosis is left untreated? ›

What can happen if osteoporosis is not treated? Osteoporosis that is not treated can lead to serious bone breaks (fractures), especially in the hip and spine. One in three women is likely to have a fracture caused by osteoporosis in her lifetime. Hip fractures can cause serious pain and disability and require surgery.

What is the early stage of osteoporosis called? ›

Osteopenia is when your bones are weaker than normal but not so far gone that they break easily, which is the hallmark of osteoporosis. Your bones are usually at their densest when you're about 30.

What does it feel like when you have osteoporosis? ›

However, some signs and symptoms, such as receding gums, weaker grip strength, and more brittle fingernails may be early warning signs. A loss of height, a stooped posture, back or neck pain, and bone fractures are often the most common symptoms of later-stage osteoporosis.

Can walking reverse osteoporosis? ›

Although there is nothing a person can do to reverse osteoporosis, there are many exercises that can start to slow down the bone density loss associated with osteoporosis. Regular walking with weights can improve a person's strength and reduce their risk of falls and fractures.

What are at least 3 treatments for osteoporosis? ›

These include:
  • Alendronate (Fosamax), a weekly pill.
  • Risedronate (Actonel), a weekly or monthly pill.
  • Ibandronate (Boniva), a monthly pill or quarterly intravenous (IV) infusion.
  • Zoledronic acid (Reclast), an annual IV infusion.

What foods destroy bone density? ›

What foods destroy bone density?
  • Excess salt.
  • Hydrogenated oil.
  • Alcohol.
  • Food rich in vitamin A.
  • Soft drinks.
29 Aug 2022

What does back pain from osteoporosis feel like? ›

Sudden, severe back pain that gets worse when you are standing or walking with some relief when you lie down. Trouble twisting or bending your body, and pain when you do. Loss of height. A curved spine called kyphosis, also known as a “dowager's hump.”

What organ system is affected by osteoporosis? ›

The systems affected, the musculo-skeletal system and the central nervous system, are shared in many respects with the frailty syndrome. Vitamin D deficiency is a major contributor to the frailty syndrome, osteoporosis, and osteoporotic fractures.

What is the fastest way to increase bone density? ›

Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, and climbing stairs, can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss.

What foods to avoid if you have osteoporosis? ›

Eating foods that have a lot of salt (sodium) causes your body to lose calcium and can lead to bone loss. Try to limit the amount of processed foods, canned foods and salt added to the foods you eat each day. To learn if a food is high in sodium, look at the Nutrition Facts label.

What exercises should be avoided with osteoporosis? ›

If you have osteoporosis, don't do the following types of exercises: High-impact exercises. Activities such as jumping, running or jogging can lead to fractures in weakened bones. Avoid jerky, rapid movements in general.

What is normal bone density for a 70 year old woman? ›

For postmenopausal women and men age 50 years and older, the T-score is the number that is used for diagnostic classification, as follows: A T-score of -1.0 or above is normal bone density. Examples are 0.9, 0 and -0.9. A T-score between -1.0 and -2.5 means you have low bone mass or osteopenia.

How does osteoporosis affect you physically? ›

Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a fall or sudden impact causes a bone to break (fracture). The most common injuries in people with osteoporosis are: broken wrist.

Can you stop osteoporosis from getting worse? ›

Treating osteoporosis means stopping the bone loss and rebuilding bone to prevent breaks. Healthy lifestyle choices such as proper diet, exercise, and medications can help prevent further bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures. But, lifestyle changes may not be enough if you have lost a lot of bone density.

Who gets osteoporosis the most? ›

Osteoporosis is more common in women. It affects almost 20% (1 in 5) of women aged 50 and over and almost 5% (1 in 20) of men aged 50 and over. Many people with osteoporosis do not know they have it until they break a bone.

Can you live longer than 15 years with osteoporosis? ›

The average life expectancy of osteoporosis patients is in excess of 15 years in women younger than 75 years and in men younger than 60 years, highlighting the importance of developing tools for long-term management.

Can osteoporosis come on quickly? ›

It may start gradually and get worse over time or come on suddenly and sharply.

Does osteoporosis show up in blood tests? ›

Blood tests are another method used to diagnose certain bone diseases. One example is osteoporosis, where blood tests are used to determine risk factors and rule out other illnesses.

What is the difference between osteoporosis and osteoarthritis? ›

Osteoporosis is often confused with osteoarthritis since often people have both. While osteoarthritis is a complex disease that causes joint pain and reduces joint mobility and function, osteoporosis is the loss of bone mass which causes risk of fractures.

Does osteoporosis affect teeth and nails? ›

If you have osteoporosis, you may be at risk for tooth loss. When the jawbone becomes less dense tooth loss can occur. Women with osteoporosis tend to have fewer teeth than women with normal bone density.

What is the first stage of osteoporosis? ›

The first stage in osteoporosis occurs when your bone loss and bone formation occur at the same rate, meaning you no longer make more bone than you're losing. At this stage, there are no symptoms, and your bone density scores are above -1.

What is the last stage of osteoporosis? ›

The fourth stage of osteopenia and osteoporosis

Without any intervention, osteoporosis can progress to stage four. During this stage the effects of significant bone loss become visible. Softening of the bones and accumulated fragility fractures, especially in the spine, results in deformity.

What foods destroy bone density? ›

What foods destroy bone density?
  • Excess salt.
  • Hydrogenated oil.
  • Alcohol.
  • Food rich in vitamin A.
  • Soft drinks.
29 Aug 2022

What is the best and safest treatment for osteoporosis 2022? ›

Bisphosphonates are usually the first choice for osteoporosis treatment. These include: Alendronate (Fosamax), a weekly pill. Risedronate (Actonel), a weekly or monthly pill.

Does osteoporosis make you tired? ›

Tiredness/fatigue, sleeping problems and breathlessness were other physical problems affecting the people we talked with. People commented that pain and tiredness often went together because pain made it hard to sleep, or even rest.

How serious is osteoporosis? ›

Osteoporosis is Serious

Breaking a bone is a serious complication of osteoporosis, especially with older patients. Osteoporotic bone breaks are most likely to occur in the hip, spine or wrist, but other bones can break too. In addition to causing permanent pain, osteoporosis causes some patients to lose height.

How quickly does osteoporosis progress? ›

While some bone is lost each year, the rate of bone loss increases dramatically in the 5 to 10 years after menopause. Then, for several years, the breakdown of bone occurs at a much greater pace than the building of new bone. This is the process that eventually causes osteoporosis.

What happens if osteoporosis is left untreated? ›

What can happen if osteoporosis is not treated? Osteoporosis that is not treated can lead to serious bone breaks (fractures), especially in the hip and spine. One in three women is likely to have a fracture caused by osteoporosis in her lifetime. Hip fractures can cause serious pain and disability and require surgery.

Do your joints ache with osteoporosis? ›

Both arthritis and osteoporosis can cause pain around the joints and bones.

What foods should you avoid if you have osteoporosis? ›

Eating foods that have a lot of salt (sodium) causes your body to lose calcium and can lead to bone loss. Try to limit the amount of processed foods, canned foods and salt added to the foods you eat each day. To learn if a food is high in sodium, look at the Nutrition Facts label.

What is the fastest way to increase bone density? ›

Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, and climbing stairs, can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss.

Is osteoporosis classed as a disability? ›

As osteoporosis (low bone density) does not cause any pain or symptoms it does not automatically qualify as a disability. Rather if you are experiencing persistent pain, a change in posture and problems getting around resulting from fractures, this may then entitle you to benefits.

What type of exercise is good for osteoporosis? ›

Weight-bearing aerobic activities

Examples include walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics, elliptical training machines, stair climbing and gardening. These types of exercise work directly on the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine to slow mineral loss.

What are the two medications that may cause osteoporosis after long term use? ›

Several medicines can cause bone loss if used over the long term (several years). Some common ones include: Glucocorticoids, also called steroids, such as cortisone and prednisone.

Videos

1. OSTEOPOROSIS | EXPLAINED IN 2 MINUTES | CAUSES | SYMPTOMS | TREATMENT - WHAT IS OSTEOPOROSIS?
(5MinuteSchool)
2. Symptoms of Osteoporosis
(AllHealthGo)
3. Osteoporosis symptoms and causes - Everything you need to know explained easily
(Tuvi Digital - English)
4. Osteoporosis Causes, Symptoms, Signs, Treatment - by Dr. Vimee Bindra Basu
(Apollo Hospitals)
5. How is osteoporosis diagnosed?
(Royal Osteoporosis Society)
6. Osteoporosis: Everything You Need To Know
(Medical Centric)

Top Articles

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Virgilio Hermann JD

Last Updated: 10/10/2022

Views: 5594

Rating: 4 / 5 (61 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Virgilio Hermann JD

Birthday: 1997-12-21

Address: 6946 Schoen Cove, Sipesshire, MO 55944

Phone: +3763365785260

Job: Accounting Engineer

Hobby: Web surfing, Rafting, Dowsing, Stand-up comedy, Ghost hunting, Swimming, Amateur radio

Introduction: My name is Virgilio Hermann JD, I am a fine, gifted, beautiful, encouraging, kind, talented, zealous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.