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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Osteoporosis
      Category : Health Centers > Osteoporosis


Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density or thinning of the bones. This thinning causes bone weakness, and eventually the involved bone may break.

What is going on in the body?

Bones go through a constant state of bone loss and regrowth. People reach their peak bone mass by about age 30. After the age of 30, bone loss slowly begins to occur. This loss, if it becomes severe, can lead to osteoporosis. The bones become thin and fragile and may break easily.

Initially, bone loss occurs very slowly for both women and men. After the age of 65 to 70, men begin to lose bone more rapidly. Women, on the other hand, begin to lose bone more rapidly after they reach menopause and the body's estrogen level falls. Women may also begin to lose bone more rapidly if they have their ovaries removed during surgery before they reach menopause.

Bone is made up of calcium and proteins. There are two types of bone: compact and spongy. Each bone in the body has both types of bone in different amounts. The first signs of osteoporosis are seen in bones that have a lot of spongy bone. These include the hip, spine, and wrist bones.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Some risk factors for osteoporosis cannot be changed. These include:

  • Age. Bone density decreases with age.
  • Body size. Women with small, thin bodies are at the highest risk.
  • Ethnic background. Caucasian and Asian women are at the highest risk, while Latino and African American women are at somewhat less risk.
  • Family history. Reduced bone mass and risk for bone fractures seem to run in some families.
  • Gender. Women have less dense bones than men and lose more bone mass during and after menopause.
  • Other risk factors for osteoporosis can be changed, such as:

  • cigarette smoking
  • a diet low in calcium and vitamin D
  • eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia
  • excess alcohol intake
  • low hormone levels associated with menopause
  • medicines such as corticosteroids, certain medicines for seizures or high blood pressure
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • Some of the diseases and conditions that can increase an individual's risk for osteoporosis are as follows:

  • cancers affecting the bone
  • eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia
  • hyperparathyroidism, a condition in which the parathyroid gland makes too much parathyroid hormone
  • hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormone
  • hypogonadism, a condition in which the ovaries in women or testes in men do not function normally
  • rheumatoid arthritis , a condition in which the body attacks its own joint tissue


    Next section


    Osteoporosis: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Eva Martin, MD
    Reviewer: Melissa Sanders, PharmD
    Date Reviewed: 09/13/01

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