What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” This disease causes bones to become weak, brittle, and susceptible to breaking. Because bone is living tissue, it constantly breaks down and must be replaced with new bone. Osteoporosis can occur when new bone growth can’t keep up with the loss of old bone tissue. Before the age of about 30, new bone is made faster than it breaks down, increasing your bone mass. However, as the bone-building process slows down, more bone is lost than can be replaced and weakens your bones.

Who can get osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis can happen to both men and women and at any age.


What causes osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is caused when bone rebuilding does not keep up with bone degeneration. This imbalance leaves bones weak and brittle. If you don’t reach a high bone mass in your youth, you will not have the bone reserves essential to strong bones as you age. You may have a higher risk of osteoporosis if you are:

  • Female, especially if you had an early menopause
  • Older age 
  • White or Asian race
  • Small frame, which provides less bone mass to draw from as you age
  • Have a poor diet, especially low levels of calcium and vitamin D
  • Have osteopenia (low bone mass)
  • Have broken a bone after age 50
  • Family history of osteoporosis, especially if a parent or sibling has osteoporosis or fractured a hip
  • Inactive
  • Affected by specific medical conditions including low levels of estrogen or testosterone, or too much hormone from your thyroid or adrenal glands
  • Taking corticosteroids, or medications used to prevent acid reflux, seizures, rejection of organ transplants, or treating cancer
  • Having medical treatments such as a reduction of testosterone in men undergoing prostate cancer treatment and breast cancer treatment that reduces estrogen
  • Having diseases such as cancer, celiac, inflammatory bowel, kidney, liver, lupus, multiple myeloma, or rheumatoid arthritis 


What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

In the early stages of osteoporosis, there are no symptoms. However, once the new bone is not replaced fast enough, and bones lose strength, symptoms may include:

  • A slow loss of height
  • Stooped posture
  • Back pain from fracture
  • Easily broken bones (especially in the hip, wrist, and spine) from falls, or even from bending over or coughing


How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

Unfortunately, many osteoporosis patients don’t know they have the disease until they have a fracture. Be proactive and ask your doctor if you need a bone mineral density scan to diagnose osteoporosis or osteopenia. The scan will also reveal your risk of fracture and your bone mass and strength. Experts recommend this screening for women over age 65 or younger if you have an increased risk of fractures.

While there is no medical specialty for osteoporosis, many doctors can provide diagnosis and treatment, including endocrinologists, orthopaedists, geriatricians, internists, gynecologists, rheumatologists, and family doctors.


Can osteoporosis be treated?

Yes, the goal of treatment is to stop bone loss and take action to rebuild bone. While certain risk factors such as age, sex, and race cannot be changed, there are important lifestyle choices you can make to both prevent osteoporosis and halt the progress of this debilitating disease. Lifestyle “treatments” include: 

  • Engaging in regular strength-building activities such as walking, jogging, dancing, stair-climbing, skipping rope, weight-lifting, or strength exercises 
  • Practicing good posture and improving balance with tai chi exercises
  • Eating a healthy diet including protein and calcium (1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, increasing to 1,200 mg. per day at age 50 for women and age 70 for men)
  • Getting 800 to 1,000 IUs of vitamin D3 per day if you’re over age 50
  • Maintaining a normal body weight because being too thin or too fat increases your fracture risk
  • Eliminating alcohol, or at least reducing it to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men
  • Quitting or reducing smoking

If you have lost a lot of bone, your doctor may recommend certain oral, injectable, or intravenous medications to slow bone loss or help rebuild bone. Book an appointment with the specialists at Inland endocrine today.


National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.Oct. 2019. Osteoporosis. Retrieved June 18, 2021 {https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/osteoporosis#tab-causes}

Mayo Clinic, June 19, 2019. Osteoporosis. Retrieved June 18, 2021 {https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351968}

International Osteoporosis Foundation, 2021. About Osteoporosis Retrieved June 18, 2021. {https://www.osteoporosis.foundation/patients/about-osteoporosis}


Medically reviewed by:

Jodi B. Nagelberg, MD, MHA

Dr. Jodi Nagelberg is an endocrinologist, with board certification in Internal Medicine. She also holds a masters in Health Administration and Policy. She joins TeleMed2U as Endocrinology Director and supports our mission to increase access to healthcare for patients everywhere.

Postgraduate: University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy Los Angeles, CA  Masters, Health Administration and Policy, 2011