What is it?

Osteoporosis is a progressive bone disease that decreases bone mass and deteriorates bone tissue. Such loss of bone mass and density increases bone fragility and makes individuals with osteoporosis more susceptible to bone fractures. Osteoporosis should not to be confused with osteoarthritis, which is a disease of the joints and surrounding tissue.

Who is at risk?

Individuals most likely to develop osteoporosis are:

  • Women after menopause.
    • Women after menopause experience a declining level of estrogen production. Loss of estrogen results in declining bone mass at a rate of 2% to 5% per year for the first five to ten years after menopause.
    • People with small body frames and low bone density.
    • People with rheumatoid arthritis.
    • People who have experienced previous fractures.
    • People who are taking medication or have a disorder that promotes low bone density.


Osteoporosis does not have any symptoms other than increased susceptibility to bone fractures, and is often not detected until a fracture occurs. Fractures are attributed to osteoporosis if they occur under circumstances that would not harm healthy people.

Furthermore, individuals may be unaware that they have already experienced osteoporotic fractures of the spine. Multiple spine fractures can cause loss of height, spine curvature and/or back pain.


Bone tissue is constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when bone tissue is replenished at a slower rate than at which it is broken down, resulting in a gradual loss of bone density.


Early detection of osteoporosis requires Bone Mineral Density (BMD) tests, which determine mineral density of bone. Test results can detect the presence of osteoporosis or anticipate its development in the future. Individuals most at risk of developing osteoporosis (listed above) are given BMD tests.

Sources: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/osteoporosis/whatisosteoporosis/01.html



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