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Causes of bone density loss: Low Bone Density > Fact Sheets > Yale Medicine

Low Bone Density > Fact Sheets > Yale Medicine


Our bones provide the scaffolding that holds our bodies upright. Contrary to popular belief, healthy bones are not solid. Their interiors are made of a honeycomb structure with tiny holes to keep them light and springy. 

However, bones that have lost a lot of mineral density have much larger holes as well as thin outer walls, which can increase their risk of breaking. So bone density is important.

Age and lifestyle can lower bone density and increase risk for conditions such as osteoporosis (dangerously low bone density) and osteopenia, which is not as extreme as osteoporosis. Low bone density is a widespread problem: Each year an estimated 1.5 million individuals suffer a fracture due to bone disease.

At Yale Medicine, our endocrinologists specialize in metabolic bone disease. These are conditions caused by deficiencies in minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium or vitamin D or problems with the hormones that regulate our blood minerals. Sometimes metabolic bone disease can be due to problems in the proteins and chemicals that make up the bones themselves. “With our depth of knowledge and reputation as a major referral center, we’ve seen the whole spectrum of cases,” says Karl Insogna, MD, director of the Yale Medicine Bone Center.

Why should you care if your bone density is low?

Low bone density can lead to serious medical conditions that could result in bone fractures.

The most worrisome condition is osteoporosis, where low bone density causes holes inside the bone to widen and the outer walls of the bone (the cortex) to thin. This causes the bone to be more fragile. 

People with osteoporosis are at a much greater risk for fracture with little or no trauma. For example, an older person can get a hip fracture as a result of a simple fall from a standing position. Hip fractures are the most serious of all osteoporotic fractures and can cause loss of mobility and independence and even death.

Osteopenia is similar to osteoporosis but where the bone density is not as low.  People with osteopenia are at increased risk for developing osteoporosis.

What are the risk factors for low bone density?

The following can lead to bone loss and an increased risk of fracture:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Low physical activity
  • Poor diet, low in vitamins and calcium
  • Changes in hormones (from smoking or menopause)
  • Age
  • Medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, overactive parathyroid gland or celiac sprue
  • Certain medications like glucocorticoids or hormone blockers
  • Multiple myeloma—a cancer that causes bone to weaken and fracture easily

What are symptoms of osteopenia or osteoporosis?

Early warning signs of low bone density are subtle. A stooped back or decreasing height can be a sign of decreasing bone density in your spine. A loss of two inches or more of height may indicate that you have osteoporosis. 

If you experience stress fractures in your feet with normal activity or fracture a rib with no particular trauma, you should ask a doctor to check for osteoporosis or osteopenia. If you suffer an arm, wrist or a hip fracture with a fall from a standing position, you are very likely to have fragile bones and definitely need a bone density test.

How are osteoporosis and osteopenia diagnosed?

Doctors use X-rays to measure bone mineral density (BMD) and check for your risk of  developing osteopenia or osteoporosis. Your BMD number will be compared to the BMD number of healthy, young, adult individuals of the same sex, and, in some cases, the same racial background. If your BMD is 2.5 units lower than that reference number, you have osteoporosis. If your BMD is between 1 and 2.5 units lower than the standard BMD, then you have osteopenia.

How are osteoporosis and osteopenia treated?

Although there is no cure for osteoporosis or osteopenia, there are ways doctors can help slow bone loss and sometimes improve bone density. Most commonly, doctors will recommend that patients supplement their vitamin D and calcium intake. Doctors may also prescribe medications like bisphosphonates or denosumab, which slow bone breakdown. 

Estrogen supplements for post-menopausal women can slow bone breakdown and are effective at relieving other menopausal symptoms. However, estrogen can have side effects, including a higher risk for breast cancer, blood clots and heart disease.

What’s special about how Yale Medicine treats low bone density?

The doctors at the Yale Medicine Bone Center specialize in hard-to-diagnose cases. We offer a wide range of diagnostic tools that not only measure bone density, but other biochemical measures such as vitamin D levels.

Much of our diagnosis is done in-house at the Yale Medicine Mineral Metabolism Lab.

The physicians in the Yale Medicine Bone Center are recognized nationally and internationally for their expertise in osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease. Dr. Insogna is on the Board of Trustees of the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

To make a diagnosis, our doctors work across departments and disciplines. “We often put our heads together and recognize that what we’re seeing is not necessarily run-of the-mill and, therefore, requires something more than a run-of-the-mill treatment,” says Dr. Insogna.

In addition, patients at the Yale Medicine Bone Center get access to treatments through clinical trials that are not yet available to the wider public.

What causes bone loss? : MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia

Osteoporosis, or weak bones, is a disease that causes bones to become brittle and more likely to fracture (break). With osteoporosis, the bones lose density. Bone density is the amount of calcified bone tissue that is in your bones.

A diagnosis of osteoporosis means you are at risk for bone fractures even with everyday activities or minor accidents or falls.

Your body needs the minerals calcium and phosphate to make and keep healthy bones.

  • During your life, your body continues to both reabsorb old bone and create new bone. Your entire skeleton is replaced about every 10 years, though this process slows as you get older.
  • As long as your body has a good balance of new and old bone, your bones stay healthy and strong.
  • Bone loss occurs when more old bone is reabsorbed than new bone is created.

Sometimes bone loss occurs without any known cause. Some bone loss with aging is normal for everyone. Other times, bone loss and low bone density run in families and the disease is inherited. In general, white, older women are the most likely to have bone loss. This increases their risk of breaking a bone.

Brittle, fragile bones can be caused by anything that makes your body destroy too much bone, or keeps your body from making enough bone.

Weak bones can break easily, even without an obvious injury.

Bone mineral density is not the only predictor of how fragile your bones are. Consuming alcohol, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle all increase the risk of having fragile bones. There are other unknown factors related to bone quality that are as important as bone quantity. Most bone density tests only measure the bone quantity.

As you age, your body may reabsorb calcium and phosphate from your bones instead of keeping these minerals in your bones. This makes your bones weaker. When this process reaches a certain stage, it is called osteoporosis.

Watch this video about:Osteoporosis

Many times, a person will fracture a bone before they even know they have bone loss. By the time a fracture occurs, the bone loss may be serious.

Women age 50 and older and men age 70 and older have a higher risk for osteoporosis than younger women and men.

  • For women, a drop in estrogen at the time of menopause is a major cause of bone loss.
  • For men, a drop in testosterone as they age can cause bone loss.

Your body needs calcium and vitamin D and enough exercise to build and keep strong bones.

Your body may not make enough new bone if:

  • You do not eat enough high-calcium foods
  • Your body does not absorb enough calcium from the foods you eat
  • Your body removes more calcium than normal in the urine

Certain habits can affect your bones.

  • Drinking alcohol. Too much alcohol can damage your bones. It can also put you at risk of falling and breaking a bone.
  • Smoking. Men and women who smoke have weaker bones. Women who smoke after menopause have an even higher chance of fractures.

Younger women who do not have menstrual periods for a long time also have a higher risk of bone loss and osteoporosis.

Low body weight is linked to less bone mass and weaker bones.

Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise, is linked to higher bone mass and stronger bones.

Many long-term (chronic) medical conditions can keep people confined to a bed or chair.

  • This keeps the muscles and bones in their hips and spines from being used or bearing any weight.
  • Not being able to walk or exercise may lead to bone loss and fractures.

Other medical conditions that may also lead to bone loss are:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Long-term (chronic) kidney disease
  • Overactive parathyroid gland
  • Diabetes, most often type 1 diabetes
  • Organ transplant

Sometimes, medicines that treat certain medical conditions can cause osteoporosis. Some of these are:

  • Hormone-blocking treatments for prostate cancer or breast cancer
  • Some medicines that are used to treat seizures or epilepsy
  • Glucocorticoid (steroid) medicines, if they are taken by mouth every day for more than 3 months, or are taken several times a year

Any treatment or condition that causes calcium or vitamin D to be poorly absorbed can also lead to weak bones. Some of these are:

  • Gastric bypass (weight-loss surgery)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Other conditions that prevent the small intestine from absorbing nutrients well

People with eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, are also at higher risk for osteoporosis.

Talk to your health care provider about your risk for bone loss and osteoporosis. Find out how to get the right amount of calcium and vitamin D, what exercise or lifestyle changes are right for you, and what medicines you may need to take.

Osteoporosis – causes; Low bone density – causes

  • Vitamin D benefit
  • Calcium source

De Paula FJA, Black DM, Rosen CJ. Osteoporosis: basic and clinical aspects. In: Melmed S, Auchus RJ, Goldfine AB, Koenig RJ, Rosen CJ, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 30.

Eastell R, Rosen CJ, Black DM, Cheung AM, Murad MH, Shoback D. Pharmacological management of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women: an Endocrine Society* Clinical Practice Guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2019;104(5):1595-1622. PMID: 30907953 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30907953/.

Weber TJ. Osteoporosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 230.

Updated by: Sandeep K. Dhaliwal, MD, board-certified in Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism, Springfield, VA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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causes, symptoms and prevention


  • 1 Bone loss
    • 1. 1 What is bone loss?
    • 1.2 Causes of bone loss
    • 1.3 What symptoms accompany bone loss?
    • 1.4 Risk factors for bone loss
    • 1.5 How is bone loss diagnosed?
    • 1.6 Various treatments for bone loss
    • 1.7 The role of nutrition in the prevention of bone loss
    • 1.8 Physical activity and its effect on bone health
    • 1.9 The role of hormones in maintaining healthy bones
    • 1.10 Vitamins and minerals for bones: what should I eat?
    • 1.11 What daily habits help prevent bone loss?
    • 1.12 Related videos:
    • 1.13 Q&A:
        • What factors can lead to bone loss?
        • What are the symptoms of bone loss?
        • How can bone loss be prevented?

Bone loss is a decrease in bone density that can lead to various problems, including osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures. This article discusses the causes, symptoms, and ways to prevent bone loss, as well as the importance of regular check-ups and treatment for this condition.

Bone loss, or osteoporosis, is a common disease of the skeletal system, which is associated with a deterioration in bone quality and a decrease in its mass. This condition can lead to an increased risk of fractures, especially in the spine, hips, and wrists.

Osteoporosis can be caused by various factors, including genetic predisposition, age, sex and lifestyle. Post-menopausal women are at a very high risk of osteoporosis due to the decrease in estrogen levels. In addition, certain medical conditions and medications can contribute to bone loss.

The main symptoms of osteoporosis are pain in the bones and muscles, weakening of the skeleton, poor posture, susceptibility to fractures. Often, patients with osteoporosis do not notice symptoms in the early stages of the disease, so early detection and prevention of osteoporosis is important to reduce the risk of complications and maintain bone health.

Methods for preventing osteoporosis include proper nutrition, physical activity and moderate alcohol consumption. A healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones. Physical activity, especially stress on the bones such as walking and lifting weights, helps strengthen bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Moderate alcohol consumption is also recommended as it may help reduce bone loss.

What is bone loss?

Bone loss, also known as osteoporosis, is a chronic condition characterized by a decrease in bone density. This happens when bones lose their mass and become more brittle and prone to fracture. Osteoporosis can affect people of all ages, but it is especially common in post-menopausal women.

Bone loss can be due to several reasons. One of the main reasons is the lack of calcium and vitamin D, which are the main “building blocks” of bones. The lack of these substances in the body can lead to deterioration in the formation and strengthening of bone tissue. Also, a risk factor may be lack of physical activity, which can lead to weakening and loss of bone mass. Some medical conditions, such as thyroid disease or multiple sclerosis, can also contribute to bone loss.

Prevention of bone loss includes a number of measures to keep bones healthy. It is important to consume nutritious foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, such as dairy products, fish, eggs, and green vegetables. Regular physical activity, including bone-bearing exercise, can also help strengthen bones and prevent bone loss. In some cases, when bone loss is already progressing, medical treatment may be required, including the use of drugs that can slow down further destructive process.

Causes of bone loss

Bone loss can be caused by several causes, including calcium and vitamin D deficiency, hormonal changes, certain medical conditions, and medications. One of the main factors leading to bone loss is a lack of calcium in the body. Calcium is a key component of bones and its deficiency can lead to bone degradation.

Vitamin D also plays an important role in bone synthesis. A lack of this vitamin can reduce the body’s ability to absorb and use calcium, leading to bone loss. Hormonal changes, such as menopause in women or low levels of sex hormones in men, can also contribute to bone loss.

Some medical conditions may increase the risk of bone loss. For example, osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become brittle and prone to fracture. Long-term use of certain medications, such as glucocorticosteroids, may also increase the risk of bone loss.

What symptoms accompany bone loss?

Bone loss, or osteoporosis, can present with a variety of symptoms that vary depending on the extent of the disease.

Another symptom is a change in posture. Due to bone loss, the spine can become deformed, resulting in stoop and reduced height.

Osteoporosis can also manifest itself in the form of frequent fractures. Bones become fragile and brittle, so even minor injuries or heavy physical exertion can lead to a fracture.

In addition, osteoporosis is often accompanied by other symptoms, including:

  • Increased bruising;
  • Fatigue and weakness;
  • Muscle and joint pain;
  • Reduced skin turgor and aging skin.

Risk factors for bone loss

Bone loss, or osteoporosis, can be caused by various risk factors.

1. Calcium and vitamin D deficiency: Insufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D in the body can lead to weakening of bones and deterioration in their density.

2. Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes, such as menopause in women and decreased levels of sex hormones, can contribute to bone loss.

3. Physical inactivity: Lack of physical activity can lead to bone deterioration and increased bone loss.

4. Constant stress: Constant stress can cause an increase in cortisol, a hormone that can contribute to bone breakdown.

5. Genetic predisposition: Some people have a genetic predisposition to bone loss and osteoporosis.

6. Smoking and drinking: Smoking and drinking too much alcohol can affect bone health and weaken them.

In general, understanding the risk factors for bone loss helps to take steps to prevent and treat osteoporosis in a timely manner.

How to diagnose bone loss?

The diagnosis of bone loss is an important step in taking steps to prevent and treat osteoporosis. There are several diagnostic methods that allow you to determine the level of bone density and identify the presence of osteoporosis.

Doctors may also do blood chemistry tests to check the levels of minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. These tests can help identify metabolic disorders and determine the causes of bone loss.

More sophisticated tests, such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), can be used to examine the condition of the bones in more detail and determine the causes of bone loss. These methods can detect osteomyelitis, tumors, and other pathologies that can lead to bone destruction.

It is important to see a doctor at the first signs of bone loss, such as bone pain, reduced height, and increased bone fragility. The doctor will be able to prescribe appropriate diagnostic methods and determine the best way to treat and prevent bone loss.

Various Treatments for Bone Loss

Bone loss can be caused by a variety of factors, including age, diet, lack of exercise, and hormonal changes. Bone loss treatment includes a variety of techniques that help restore bone strength and density.

Another effective treatment for bone loss is physical activity. Regular exercise, such as walking, dancing, lifting weights or swimming, helps build strong bones and improve muscle strength. In addition, physical activity stimulates the formation of new bone tissue.

For those with bone loss due to poor nutrition, it is important to change your diet to include foods rich in calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is essential for maintaining healthy bones, and vitamin D helps absorb calcium. Examples of such foods include dairy products, fish, nuts, and green vegetables.

There are also alternative treatments for bone loss, such as the use of herbs and herbal preparations. Certain herbs, such as birch bud and red brush, can help strengthen bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. However, before using these drugs, you should consult your doctor.

It is important to note that the treatment of bone loss should be complex and include many methods. A combination of proper nutrition, regular physical activity, medications, and alternative methods can help restore and strengthen bones, improve quality of life, and reduce the risk of fractures. Therefore, it is important to seek the advice of a doctor or specialist in the field in order to choose the best treatment plan.

The role of nutrition in the prevention of bone loss

Proper nutrition plays an important role in the prevention of bone loss. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D contributes to the maintenance of healthy bones and prevents their destruction. Calcium, which is the main building block of bones, can be obtained from foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, broccoli, dark green vegetables, and almonds. Also, calcium can be replenished by taking special supplements and drugs.

In addition to calcium and vitamin D, magnesium is also an important nutrient for maintaining healthy bones. Magnesium helps in protein synthesis and regulates calcium levels in the blood. Sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, oatmeal, spinach, legumes, and whole grains.

What’s more, certain foods can contribute to bone loss. Chicken fat, vegetable oils, carbonated drinks, and high amounts of salt can increase calcium loss from the body and contribute to bone breakdown. Therefore, the regular use of these products should be limited or eliminated.

In general, following a healthy diet is one of the key aspects of preventing bone loss. The diet should be rich in calcium, vitamin D and magnesium, and also exclude unwanted foods that can lead to bone destruction. Along with physical activity and regular health check-ups, proper nutrition helps maintain healthy bones throughout life.

Physical activity and its effect on bone health

Physical activity plays an important role in maintaining healthy bones. Regular exercise helps strengthen bones, improve bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Particularly beneficial for the bones are weight-bearing exercises such as walking, running, jumping, aerobics and weight lifting. When performing these exercises, our bones experience a force load, which stimulates the formation of new bone tissue.

Physical activity also improves blood circulation, which helps transport essential nutrients and oxygen to the bones. In addition, it helps to reduce stress levels and maintain a normal metabolism, which is also important for bone health.

In general, physical activity is an important factor in maintaining bone health. Regular exercise helps to strengthen bones, improve their density and reduce the risk of developing various diseases associated with bone loss.

The role of hormones in maintaining healthy bones

Hormones play an important role in maintaining healthy bones. They regulate the processes of formation and destruction of bone tissue, ensuring its constant renewal and stability.

The most important bone-related hormone is parathyroid hormone (PTH). It is involved in the regulation of calcium levels in the blood, releasing it from the bones when needed. Elevated levels of PTH can lead to increased bone loss and the development of osteoporosis.

Vitamin D is not only a vitamin, but also a hormone that regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, necessary for bone formation. A lack of vitamin D can lead to impaired bone formation and strengthening, increased resorption activity of osteoblasts and, as a result, to the development of osteoporosis.

Sexual hormones such as estrogen and testosterone also affect bone health. In women, estrogens play a key role in maintaining bone density, and their deficiency can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis. In men, testosterone helps build bone tissue and strengthen the skeleton, so low levels of this hormone can lead to bone loss.

Vitamins and minerals for bones: which ones should I take?

Bone tissue is a living organism that needs certain nutrients to maintain its strength and health. Vitamins and minerals play an important role in the formation and repair of bones, so their use is essential.

Calcium is the main mineral that makes bones strong and resistant. Daily intake of calcium in combination with vitamin D helps prevent bone loss and osteoporosis. Sources of calcium: dairy products, soft-boned fish (such as sardines), nuts, legumes, and green vegetables.

Vitamin D – helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which helps to strengthen bones. The main source of vitamin D is sunlight, but it can also be obtained from animal products such as egg yolks, fatty fish, and dairy products, as well as some dietary supplements.

Magnesium – Important for bone health and strengthening. Sources of magnesium are nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and meats.

Vitamin K – necessary for the formation of a protein necessary for the binding of calcium in the bones. The main source of vitamin K is green vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli, as well as some oils and animal products.

Vitamin C – is involved in the formation of collagen, which is the main building material of bone tissue. Vitamin C can be obtained from citrus fruits, berries, red peppers and tomatoes.

Phosphorus is another mineral important for bones, as it forms part of the mineral composition of bone tissue. Phosphorus is found in meat, fish, dairy products, eggs and nuts.

In general, eating a variety of foods rich in vitamins and minerals helps maintain healthy and strong bones. However, before increasing your intake of nutritional supplements, you should consult your doctor or dietitian.

What daily habits help prevent bone loss?

Preventing bone loss is an important aspect of maintaining healthy bones. Daily habits that help prevent bone loss include the following:

  1. Regular exercise. Physical activity such as walking, running, lifting dumbbells and yoga helps to strengthen bones, improve coordination and balance. It is recommended that you get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
  2. Proper nutrition. Calcium-rich foods such as dairy products, fish, nuts, and green vegetables help maintain bone health. In addition, it is important to consume enough vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium.
  3. Refusal of bad habits. Smoking and drinking have a negative effect on bone health. Therefore, in order to prevent bone loss, these bad habits must be avoided.
  4. Regular check of calcium and vitamin D levels in the body. Establishing appropriate levels of calcium and vitamin D is important for determining bone health and strengthening. If necessary, you can take special medications recommended by your doctor.
  5. Fall prevention. Falls can lead to broken bones, so it is important to take preventive measures. This may include using poles or rods in the bathroom, installing handrails on stairs, and making sure the rooms are well lit.

Remember that daily habits play an important role in preventing bone loss and maintaining healthy bones throughout life. By following these guidelines, you can strengthen your bones and reduce your risk of osteoporosis and other bone health problems.

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What factors can lead to bone loss?

Bone loss can be caused by a variety of factors such as calcium and vitamin D deficiency, hormonal changes, heredity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption and smoking.

What are the symptoms of bone loss?

Bone loss can cause symptoms such as bone pain, especially in the lower back and neck, poor posture, reduced height, frequent fractures, weakness, and reduced physical activity.

How can bone loss be prevented?

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent bone loss. It is important to eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, maintain an active lifestyle, exercise, avoid smoking and drinking alcohol, and get regular check-ups with your doctor.

Osteopenia – symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment

Osteopenia is a condition in which bone mineral density decreases. In addition, bone strength also decreases. This is accompanied by an increased risk of fracture. Osteopenia is often confused with osteoporosis. The difference between them is that in the first disease, bone loss is not so significant. Therefore, many people live with osteopenia for a long time without knowing about it. Let us consider in more detail what is the peculiarity of the pathology and how to avoid it.

What is osteoporosis and osteopenia? Why is osteoporosis dangerous?

As we grow older, the bones begin to thin out – this is a normal physiological process. With age, the rate of formation of new cells decreases compared to the rate of reabsorption of old cells. Against the background of an imbalance of such mechanisms, a change in the structure of bone tissue occurs, the bones lose their mass. As a result of a decrease in the amount of minerals in the chemical composition of bone tissues, they become brittle and more prone to fractures.

Maximum bone density is reached by 29–31 years of age, after which age regression occurs. But it is worth noting that the stronger the skeleton at this age, the later the osteopenic condition will develop. However, there are rare situations when low mineral density is considered acceptable and bone mass does not decrease.

The rate of bone loss varies between men and women. In men (regardless of age), it remains constant, about 0.4% per year. In women, this parameter directly depends on the hormonal background. So, before the onset of menopause, it ranges from 0.7% to 1% per year. And during menopause, it increases significantly, reaching up to 2% per year.

Causes of osteopenia

The process of bone formation is largely related to genetic factors. It can be influenced by various individual characteristics (in particular, gender, age category, physical activity). Therefore, osteopenia is able to develop when some “failures” occur at various levels. Not the last role is played by genetic changes, for example, hereditary predisposition, early menopause. Other risk factors include:

  1. Underweight.
  2. Sedentary lifestyle (sedentary work, lack of physical activity).
  3. Abuse of caffeinated drinks.
  4. Bad habits (use of tobacco and alcohol products).
  5. Calcium deficiency in the body.
  6. Chronic inflammation due to disease (eg, rheumatoid arthritis).
  7. Severe diseases of internal organs (liver, lungs, kidneys).
  8. Celiac disease (autoimmune, hereditary disease of the digestive tract).
  9. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy within the last six months.


As a rule, osteopenia does not cause discomfort, does not provoke pain, as long as there are no bone fractures. Pathology can be asymptomatic for many years before a diagnosis is made. At the same time, fractures that occur against the background of osteopenia (for example, of the hip or vertebrae) are very painful.

However, sometimes there are symptoms that indirectly indicate a pathology. Among them are disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, failure of metabolic processes, frequent injuries to the limbs. It is important for each person who has been diagnosed to adjust their lifestyle, to choose a medical correction.


The presence of osteopenia is easy to establish: it is enough to determine the bone density. Many techniques have been created, but DERA is more informative. This is a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry capable of detecting a decrease in bone mass at an early stage (at 2%). Additionally, the doctor prescribes laboratory diagnostics to check hormonal parameters, the content of calcium and phosphorus, the lack of which triggers the mechanism for the development of osteopenia. Sometimes doctors resort to instrumental diagnostic methods – computer or magnetic resonance imaging.

As a preventive measure, laboratory diagnostics is recommended for women over 55 years of age. Especially if, in addition to menopause, there are risk factors: the European type, the presence of osteoporosis in close relatives, underweight, the systematic use of corticosteroids, and the abuse of bad habits.

According to statistics, most often osteopenia occurs in women over the age of 55 years. However, men are also susceptible to the disease. The difference lies in the fact that against the background of a higher BMD, changes begin later.

Treatment of osteopenia

If a patient is diagnosed with osteopenia, they are prescribed lifestyle adjustments and a diet that includes eating foods with sufficient vitamin D, calcium and other micronutrients. It is important to treat the underlying disease, which provoked a violation of their absorption, for example, celiac disease.

The choice of drug treatment tactics is carried out on an individual basis, taking into account the results of diagnostics, concomitant diseases and general health. The doctor also takes into account all risk factors (hereditary predisposition, body type, the presence of chronic pathologies), establishing the risk of fractures in the coming years.

An integral part of therapy is lifestyle modification. So, if a person abuses alcohol and tobacco products, he needs to give up these addictions. With a sedentary lifestyle, you can not do without regular, but moderate physical activity (for example, swimming or yoga).

It is also important to ensure an adequate daily intake of calcium and vitamin D. If dietary intake cannot be ensured, special supplements are allowed. Women over 70 require 800 IU of vitamin D per day, men and women of other age groups 600 IU per day, and young children (under one year old) 400 IU per day.

For calcium, adult women (over 55) and men (over 70) need 1200 mg per day. It must be taken fractionally, not more than 600 mg at a time. For women over 45 years of age and men over 55 years of age, the recommended dosage is 1000 mg per day.

Doctors often prescribe specialized drugs to combat osteopenia: bisphosphonates, calcitonin, teriparatide. Sometimes hormone replacement therapy with estrogen and progesterone is required.

It is worth noting that long-term use of various bisphosphonates can lead to side effects that have some peculiarities (for example, aseptic necrosis of the jaw). However, they are rare. These drugs are prescribed when the benefits of preventing bone fractures far outweigh the possible risks of side effects of these drugs.

Often, the treatment of osteopenia does not require the use of specialized medications, since not everyone has it leading to bone fractures or progressing to osteoporosis. At the same time, prolonged use of such drugs is often accompanied by side effects that can lead to serious complications. In such clinical situations, the doctor prescribes dynamic monitoring of bone density through densitometry.

Prevention of osteopenia

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important to minimize the risk of osteopenia. You need to eat right to get enough calcium. It is important to ensure an adequate intake of vitamin D, to minimize the use of alcohol-containing products, to engage in moderate physical activity and not to abuse tobacco products.

At a young age, measures to strengthen bone tissue are important, since it reaches its maximum at about 30 years of age. But even after 30 years, it will be useful to adjust the lifestyle. Thanks to a balanced diet, regular physical activity, the process of loss of bone tissue density significantly slows down, and the development of osteoporosis is prevented.

Stages of development

There are three main stages of osteopenia:

  1. At the first stage, there are no visible manifestations, there is a non-critical decrease in bone density. Various trace elements begin to be washed out of the body (in particular, phosphorus, calcium, manganese).
  2. In the second stage, there is already a strong decrease in bone density, which is accompanied by an increased risk of fractures. Some patients have pain in the interscapular region or the lumbar spine. There are discomfort during movements, a feeling of stiffness.
  3. In the third stage, the pathology becomes chronic. A person has regular exacerbations of symptoms at regular intervals, complications appear in the form of arthritis, arthrosis, osteoporosis and other diseases.

Types of disease

Osteopenia is in many ways similar to osteoporosis, except for the intensity of the course and possible complications. Specialists classify only osteoporosis, but its characteristics are also relevant in relation to osteopenia. For classification, the causes of development, the shape of the flow and location are taken into account. Let’s consider them in more detail.

Osteopenia in women

According to statistics, it occurs more often than in men. This is due to the peculiarities of the hormonal background. At the same time, women over 50 years of age and those who have begun menopause are at risk. Abortions, breastfeeding, and professional sports have a negative effect on the structure of bones. In such situations, you need to get more beneficial trace elements and estrogens.

Osteopenia in children

At an early age, the pathology is diagnosed very rarely (may appear against the background of genetic abnormalities, hypertrophy). Sometimes it occurs in adolescence during puberty.

Classification by cause of occurrence

There are four main types of pathology:

  1. Senile. It appears against the background of age-related degenerations, the development of looseness of the bone structure.
  2. Post-traumatic. This is an acute form of the disease, which arises as a result of serious injuries, mechanical damage to the bones.
  3. Postmenopausal. It occurs in more than 70% of women during menopause, which indicates hormonal disruptions in the body.
  4. Medicinal. It is expressed by a negative reaction of bone tissues to long-term use of corticosteroids and other heavy drugs.


If you do not provide timely assistance (lifestyle correction, drug therapy), then there is a high risk of fractures of the arms, legs, neck and back. With the progression of the pathology, a partial limitation of motor functions appears. Some patients develop osteoarthritis, sciatica, rheumatism. In advanced cases, disability is possible.

Prevention of bone loss and fractures

To minimize the risk of developing pathology, it is important not to abuse alcohol and tobacco products, get enough trace elements and vitamin D. It is also important to be careful when moving – by preventing falls, it is possible to reduce the likelihood of fractures, which caused by osteoporosis.