Osteoporosis – Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Treatments


What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition that makes the bones weak and brittle. As a result, the bones become thin, and they break. The breakage can occur when mild stress is applied or subjected to other daily activities like bending and stretching.

Osteoporosis is also called porous bone. Sometimes, when a person coughs, a bone can be fractured due to pressure. The fracture can occur in the hip, spine and wrist.

Osteoporosis occurs when new bone formations fail to replace the old bones. Osteoporosis can occur in both gender—males and females.

Patients with Osteoporosis are more susceptible to fractures. The disease can progress without any pain and cause a sudden fracture.

Sometimes, Osteoporosis can be common in women in the post-menopause stage. Osteoporosis can be handled with good nutrition, exercise and strengthening the weakened bones.

Causes of Osteoporosis

There are many researches conducted on Osteoporosis to understand how a bone breaks without any prominent symptoms. The bones are made of small tissues which supply the bones with nutrition.

These tissues absorb nutrition from the body. The sponge-like tissue will be wrapped by a hard-core shell called cortical bone.

Osteoporosis causes holes in the sponge-like structure of the tissues, and the holes tend to enlarge in size and weaken the bone.

The bones stores calcium, and when the body needs calcium, the bones will be broken down, and the calcium will be released, and then new bone formation will occur with the broken bones.

This process is called remodelling, and the process can occur smoothly till the age of 30.

As we age, the formation of new bones may be delayed, and the bone might be weakened. This leads to a gradual loss of muscle mass and contributes to Osteoporosis.

The other causes of osteoporosis include

  • Taking steroids (especially through the mouth)
  • Lack of oestrogen in the body
  • Lack of weight-bearing exercises
  • Overconsumption of alcohol
  • Smoking

Family history of Osteoporosis.

Family history plays a major role in Osteoporosis if your parents or grandparents have this condition. The risk of developing Osteoporosis increases, and it can also run in families.

The early signs of Osteoporosis may be hip fractures due to minor stress or fall. Recurrent fractures can also indicate that you have Osteoporosis.

Parental history of hip fracture.

Parental history of hip fracture can increase the risk of their offspring getting affected with Osteoporosis. Family history is often used as a factor to determine the cause of the disease.

Body mass index

A low Body Mass Index (BMI) can have an impact on bone health. An NCBI article titled “The association between body mass index and Osteoporosis in patients referred for a bone mineral density examination” stated that women with low body mass index are at an increased risk of Osteoporosis.

Additionally, it stated that people with low body mass index should maintain a healthy body mass index to reduce the risk of Osteoporosis.

Long-term use of high-dose steroid tablet

Long-term use of steroid tablets can affect bone density. The use of steroid medication like corticosteroids, cortisone and prednisone for a long time can affect bone density.

Loss in bone density can occur slowly in six months after starting an oral steroid. After twelve months of steroid use, the bones start to lose their density.

While consuming steroid drugs, make sure you take foods rich in vitamin D and calcium. Keep yourself active and avoid the habit of smoking and drinking.

Symptoms of Osteoporosis

The symptoms of Osteoporosis set in slowly, and it is also referred to as a silent disease. However, there can be some symptoms.

Receding gums

The early symptoms of Osteoporosis may be receding gums. Osteoporosis can cause painful dentures if a person is undergoing treatment.

Visit a dentist at regular time intervals to check for loss of teeth bone density and surrounding bone structures.

Weakened grip strength

The grip strength of women weakens when a person has been affected with Osteoporosis, especially women with a post-menopausal age. Low bone mineral density increases the risk of Osteoporosis, which can cause multiple fractures.

Weak and brittle nails

Brittle and weak fingernails may indicate early symptoms of Osteoporosis.

Loss of height

Loss of height happens when your spine weakens due to loss of bone density, and at some point in time, the spine can crumple and collapse. This can lead to back pain and loss of height.

Change in posture

Change in posture is seen in people affected with Osteoporosis. People lose height and which can lead to a change in posture.

Shortness of breath

Osteoporosis-induced fracture, causes vertebral compression fractures. These fractures can cause back pain, which results in impaired lung function.

Bone fractures

Low bone density in osteoporosis patients causes multiple bone fractures when subjected to light stress like bending and coughing. Multiple bone fractures can also be an early symptom of Osteoporosis.

Pain in the lower back

The bones in the spine can break due to low bone density. When there is a weakening of bones, it can lead to back pain.

Diagnosis of Osteoporosis

The diagnosis of osteoporosis is carried out by the below tests.

Bone density test

A bone density test checks whether a person has osteoporosis. The test measures the grams of calcium and other bone minerals packed in the segment of the bone using X-rays.

The bones that are usually subjected to test are the hip, spine and forearm. The bone density test is painless, fast and easy. Special preparations will not be required; however, avoid taking calcium supplements for at least 24 hours before the test, as they can alter the test results.

DEXA test results

The DEXA is also a test that is used to measure the mineral content of the bones. DEXA is an imaging test that uses very low levels of X-rays to measure the density of the bones.

DEXA stands for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. The DEXA test is considered to be easy, useful, painless, inexpensive and quick.

The DEXA scan works by using two different X-ray beams. The person will be asked to lie on the DEXA X-ray table. The professional handling the machine will hold the position with the help of foam blockers. The foam blocks help to hold the person in the desired position.

The DEXA machine will be allowed to pass over the body of the person. The machine will use a small amount of radiation to differentiate the tissues and bones.

After scanning, the results will be given in the form of graphs and pictures. The bones will appear white, and the tissues will appear as shadows. With the help of the report, treatment will be decided by a healthcare professional.

Other tests

The healthcare professional can also recommend other tests like bone mineral density (BMD) in specific areas of the bone like, the hip and spine. The BMD is used to

  • Diagnose low bone density  before the development of osteoporosis
  • Diagnosis of osteoporosis
  • Predicts the risk of future fractures
  • Monitors the effectiveness of the treatment for osteoporosis.

Quantitative ultrasound (QUS) of the heel will be recommended by the doctor. The test evaluates the bone but not the bone mineral density. If the test indicates that a person has bone loss, a further diagnosis like DXA, will be required to diagnose bone loss and osteoporosis.

Risk factors of Osteoporosis

There are certain factors that increase the risk of Osteoporosis. Some of the risk factors are listed below.


Age is an important factor that can increase the risk of Osteoporosis. Women and men aged above 50 are more susceptible to Osteoporosis.


Women, when they enter menopause, have an increased risk of Osteoporosis. After entering the menopause phase, women rapidly lose bone density in ten years.

Eating habits

Health depends on the food we eat. Eating habits can have an impact on your bone health too. Having a diet plan that is low in calcium can affect bone health and increase the risk of Osteoporosis.


Having a lifestyle that has no or less physical activity can increase the risk of Osteoporosis.

Tobacco use

The use of tobacco can affect bone which can increase the risk of Osteoporosis.

Alcohol use

Excessive alcohol consumption can likely increase the risk of Osteoporosis.

Treatments of Osteoporosis

The treatment for Osteoporosis includes good nutritious food, a healthy lifestyle, and, if required, certain medications. The treatment options are listed below.

Proper nutrition

Nutritious food is required to prevent the bones from losing their density. Foods that are rich in calcium can increase bone density and prevent multiple fractures.

It is important to consume the daily recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D to treat osteoporosis. Some of the common foods that are rich in calcium are listed below.

FoodCalcium content (mg)
115 g (4 oz) whitebait (fried in flour)980
60 g (2 oz) sardines (including bones)260
0.2 l (1/3 pint) semi-skimmed milk230
0.2 l (1/3 pint) whole milk220
3 large slices of brown or white bread215
125 g (41/2 oz) low-fat yoghurt205
30 g (1 oz) hard cheese190
0.2 l (1/2 pint) calcium-enriched soya milk180

Lifestyle changes and exercise

Lifestyle changes can have a high impact on your bone health. Physical activity helps rebuild weakened bones.

At the same time, too much stress can break your brittle bones. Physical activity like walking and low-impact activities can be done. However, consult your doctor before starting any physical training programmes.

Fall prevention to help prevent fractures

Be watchful when you walk or perform your daily activities. Even a small fall can have a high impact on your bones, and bone fracture can occur.


Medication can play an important role in Osteoporosis. Along with a healthy diet, medication help strengthens the weakened bone and rebuild it.

Some common medications that treat and prevent Osteoporosis are listed below.

  • Alendronic acid,
  • Ibandronic acid,
  • Risedronic acid and
  • Zoledronic acid.

Prevention of Osteoporosis

Prevention of Osteoporosis is possible with a proper nutritious diet and regular physical activity.

Getting recommended daily amount of calcium and vitamin D

Diet is important to prevent Osteoporosis. Consume foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D.

Kale, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, beet, collard greens, turnip, dandelion greens and mustard greens are rich in calcium.

Doing weight-bearing exercises

Weight-bearing exercises can reduce the risk of Osteoporosis. Low-impact weight-bearing exercise can help prevent Osteoporosis.

Exercise like dancing, walking, stair climbing, hiking, jogging and aerobics can help strengthen bones. However, be watchful when you do such exercises. You may be susceptible to falls which can fracture your bones.

Stopping smoking

Smoking increases the risk of Osteoporosis. It can interfere with bone health and weaken the bones.

For women, weighing the pros and cons of hormone therapy is essential

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) helps preserve bone density in women. As women age, the bones can weaken and break. Hormone therapy helps to preserve bone health.

Hormone replacement therapy helps increase oestrogen levels. As women age, these hormones can decrease. Hormone replacement therapy can help maintain hormone levels.

Hormone replacement therapy can increase the risk of endometrial cancer, blood clots and stroke. So before taking up such therapy, consult your doctor.

When to see a doctor?

Consult your doctor when you have symptoms and other conditions listed below.

  • When recurrent fractures occur,
  • When there is a change in posture,
  • Constant back pain and
  • Gradual loss of weight.

Early diagnosis can also prevent major bone density loss.


Osteoporosis is a common condition that affects post-menopause women. Osteoporosis can affect both males and females aged above 50.

A healthy diet with certain lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of Osteoporosis. Exercise can strengthen the bone and prevent their bones from breaking.

Also, make sure you include enough foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients strengthen the bones and prevent them from breaking.


Can Osteoporosis be cured?

Currently, there is no cure for Osteoporosis. However, with proper nutrition and exercise, bone breakage can be avoided.

What happens when you have Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis can weaken your bones and make them brittle. Weakened bones can break when they are subjected to even minor stress, like coughing and bending over.

Is walking good for Osteoporosis?

Walking can prevent bone weakening and helps maintain bone density. Walking can effectively reduce bone loss.

What foods destroy bone density?

Foods like soft and carbonated drinks, hydrogenated oil, salty foods and alcohol can reduce bone density.

What can make Osteoporosis worse?

People who sit for a long time are at an increased risk of Osteoporosis, which also worsens the condition. Other habits like drinking alcohol and smoking can worsen Osteoporosis.

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