Home > Health A – Z > Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis

Literally means "porous bone." This disease is characterized by too little bone formation, excessive bone loss, or a combination of both, leading to bone fragility and an increased risk of fractures of the hip, spine and wrist.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases)

About Osteoporosis

Having weak bones that easily break is a sign of osteoporosis. It is normal for your bones to become less dense as you grow older, but osteoporosis speeds up this process. This condition can particularly lead to problems in older age because broken bones do not heal as easily in older people as they do in young people, and the consequences are more serious. In general, osteoporosis is more common in women, and they often develop it at a younger age.

Getting older does not mean that you will automatically develop osteoporosis, but the risk does increase with age. People over the age of 70 are more likely to have low bone density. Plus, the risk of falling increases in old age, which then also makes fractures more likely.

But there are several things you can do to protect and strengthen your bones — even if you are already older.

Symptoms

Osteoporosis often goes undetected at first. Sometimes there are obvious signs that a person has osteoporosis — they may "shrink" a little and develop a stooped posture, for example. But often the first sign that someone has osteoporosis is when they break a bone, sometimes without knowing how or why it happened. This kind of break is called a "spontaneous fracture."

Read more about Osteoporosis

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Etidronate for preventing fractures caused by osteoporosis in postmenopausal women

This summary of a Cochrane review presents what we know from research about the effect of etidronate for preventing fractures (broken bones) caused by osteoporosis.

Alendronate for preventing fractures caused by osteoporosis in postmenopausal women

This summary of a Cochrane review presents what we know from research about the effect of alendronate for preventing fractures (broken bones) caused by osteoporosis.

Exercise for preventing and treating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women

This summary of a Cochrane review presents what we know from research about the effect of exercise on bone mass in postmenopausal women.

See all (553)

Summaries for consumers

Etidronate for preventing fractures caused by osteoporosis in postmenopausal women

This summary of a Cochrane review presents what we know from research about the effect of etidronate for preventing fractures (broken bones) caused by osteoporosis.

Alendronate for preventing fractures caused by osteoporosis in postmenopausal women

This summary of a Cochrane review presents what we know from research about the effect of alendronate for preventing fractures (broken bones) caused by osteoporosis.

Exercise for preventing and treating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women

This summary of a Cochrane review presents what we know from research about the effect of exercise on bone mass in postmenopausal women.

See all (90)

Terms to know

Bone Mineral Density (BMD)
Bone density (or bone mineral density) is a medical term normally referring to the amount of mineral matter per square centimeter of bones. Bone density (or BMD) is used in clinical medicine as an indirect indicator of osteoporosis and fracture risk.
Kyphoplasty
A procedure for vertebral fractures in which a balloon-like device is inserted into the vertebra to help restore the height and shape of the spine and a cement-like substance is injected to repair and stabilize it.
Rheumatologist
Doctors who diagnose and treat diseases of the bones, joints, muscles, and tendons, including arthritis and collagen diseases.
Vertebroplasty
A procedure used to repair a bone in the spine that has a break caused by cancer, osteoporosis (a decrease in bone mass and density), or trauma. Bone cement is injected into the broken bone to make it stronger.

More about Osteoporosis

Photo of an adult

See Also: Bone Mineral Density

Other terms to know: See all 4
Bone Mineral Density (BMD), Kyphoplasty, Rheumatologist

Related articles:
Understanding Bone Tests

Keep up with systematic reviews on Osteoporosis:

Create RSS

PubMed Health Blog...

read all...