Know More: Osteoporosis

Trustworthy information, straight from the source. Education is the first step in an empowering healthcare plan. Learn more about osteoporosis, from prevention to diagnosis and treatment.

Woman talking with doctor

Condition Overview

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a long-term medical condition that causes your bones to become weak, brittle, and more likely to fracture. Osteoporosis occurs when your body absorbs more bone than it makes. It is also caused by a lack of calcium and estrogen (female hormone).

Risk Prevention

What increases my risk for osteoporosis?

  • Age older than 35.
  • Low estrogen levels.
  • Female gender.
  • Alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine.
  • Lack of calcium and vitamin D in your foods.
  • Lack of exercise.
  • Some illnesses, such as thyroid diseases, bone cancer, and long-term lung diseases.
  • Certain medicines, such as steroids, anticonvulsants, and blood-thinners.

How can I help prevent bone loss?

  • Eat healthy foods that are high in calcium. This helps keep your bones strong. Good sources of calcium are milk, cheese, broccoli, tofu, almonds, and canned salmon and sardines.
  • Increase your vitamin D intake. Vitamin D is in fish oils, some vegetables, and fortified milk, cereal, and bread. Vitamin D is also formed in the skin when it is exposed to the sun. Ask your healthcare provider how much sunlight is safe for you.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Do not have alcohol or caffeine. They decrease bone mineral density, which can weaken your bones.
  • Exercise regularly. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you. Weight bearing exercise for 30 minutes, 3 times a week can help build and strengthen bone.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Go to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and muscle strength.

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

What are the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis?

You may not have any signs or symptoms. You may break a bone after a muscle strain, bump, or fall. A break usually occurs in the hip, spine, or wrist. A collapsed vertebra (bone in your spine) may cause severe back pain or loss of height from bent posture.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

  • Blood and urine tests measure your calcium, vitamin D, and estrogen levels.
  • An X-ray or CT may show thinned bones or a fracture. You may be given contrast liquid to help the bones show up better in the pictures. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • A bone density test compares your bone thickness with what is expected for someone of your age, gender, and ethnicity.

How is osteoporosis treated?

Medicines may be given to prevent bone loss, build new bone, and increase estrogen. These medicines help prevent fractures and may be given as a pill or injection. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on these medicines.

Preparing for Care

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe pain.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have increasing pain after a fall.
  • You have pain when you do your daily activities.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.