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What are osteoporosis causes and risk factors?

The following are factors that will increase the risk of developing osteoporosis:

  • Female gender
  • Caucasian or Asian race
  • Thin and small body frame
  • Family history of osteoporosis (for example, having a mother with an osteoporotic hip fracture doubles your risk of hip fracture)
  • Personal history of fracture as an adult
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diet low in calcium
  • Poor nutrition and poor general health, especially associated with chronic inflammation or bowel disease
  • Malabsorption (nutrients are not properly absorbed from the gastrointestinal system) from bowel diseases, such as celiac sprue that can be associated with skin diseases, such as dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Low estrogen levels in women (which may occur in menopause or with early surgical removal of both ovaries)
  • Low testosterone levels in men (hypogonadism)
  • Chemotherapy that can cause early menopause due to its toxic effects on the ovaries
  • Amenorrhea (loss of the menstrual period) in young women is associated with low estrogen and osteoporosis; amenorrhea can occur in women who undergo extremely vigorous exercise training and in women with very low body fat (for example, women with anorexia nervosa)
  • Chronic inflammation, due to chronic inflammatory arthritis or diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or liver diseases
  • Immobility, such as after a stroke, or from any condition that interferes with walking
  • Hyperthyroidism, a condition wherein too much thyroid hormone is produced by the thyroid gland (as in Grave's disease) or is ingested as thyroid hormone medication
  • Hyperparathyroidism is a disease wherein there is excessive parathyroid hormone production by the parathyroid gland, a small gland located near or within the thyroid gland. Normally, parathyroid hormone maintains blood calcium levels by, in part, removing calcium from the bone. In untreated hyperparathyroidism, excessive parathyroid hormone causes too much calcium to be removed from the bone, which can lead to osteoporosis.
  • When vitamin D is lacking, the body cannot absorb adequate amounts of calcium from the diet to prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D deficiency can result from dietary deficiency, lack of sunlight, or lack of intestinal absorption of the vitamin such as occurs in celiac sprue and primary biliary cirrhosis.
  • Certain medications can cause osteoporosis. These medicines include long-term use of heparin (a blood thinner), antiseizure medicine such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and phenobarbital, and long-term use of oral corticosteroids (such as prednisone).
  • Inherited disorders of connective tissue, including osteogenesis imperfecta, homocystinuria, osteoporosis-pseudoglioma syndrome and skin diseases, such as Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (These causes of hereditary secondary osteoporosis each are treated differently.)
Return to Osteoporosis

See what others are saying

Comment from: applehead, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 21

I want to let everybody know you can get stronger bones and make them healthy and you do not need to use drugs. Bones will be rebuilt by doing moderate weight training. I suggest using the weight vest and also eat lots of green leafy vegetables!

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Comment from: Kathy, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: February 19

I'm a 45 year old woman. I have broken my foot, a stress fracture, at work a few times, just from walking. I have gotten the DEXA scan done. My T-score is -2.8.

Was this comment helpful?Yes
Comment from: Mom1963, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: May 06

I have always had frequent bone density tests due to the fact my sister has osteoporosis. Tests always came back negative. One morning I woke up with my hand red and swollen � mostly the thumb and palm area. Now the Doctor says I have severe osteoporosis. I'm just wondering if this happens often.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

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