Your body needs the minerals calcium and phosphate to make and keep healthy bones.
Sometimes bone loss occurs without any known cause. Other times, bone loss and thin bones tend to run in families. In general, white women are the most likely to have bone loss.
Brittle, fragile bones can be caused by anything that:
Weak bones can fracture (break) easily, even without an obvious injury.
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.
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 is serious.
Women over age 50 and men over age 70 have a higher risk of osteoporosis than younger women and men.
Certain habits can affect your bones:
Younger woman who do not have menstrual periods for a long time also have a higher risk of bone loss and osteoporosis.
Many long-term (chronic) medical conditions can keep a person confined to a bed or chair.
Other medical conditions that may also lead to bone loss are:
Sometimes, medicines that treat certain medical conditions can cause osteoporosis. Some of these are:
Any treatment or condition that causes calcium or vitamin D to be poorly absorbed can also lead to weak bones. Some of these are:
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 you should do, and what medicines you may need to take.
Osteoporosis - causes; Low bone density - causes
Lewiecki EM. In the clinic. Osteoporosis. Ann Intern Med. 2011 Jul 5;155(1):ITC1-1-15; quiz ITC1-16.
National Osteoporosis Foundation. Clinician's Guide to Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis. Washington,DC: National Osteoporosis Foundation;2010.
Miller KK, et al. Determinants of skeletal loss and recovery in anorexia nervosa. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006;91(8):2931-2937.
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc
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