Osteopenia: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 4/11/2016

Osteopenia is a bone condition characterized by a decreased density of bone, but the density is not decreased enough to warrant a diagnosis of osteoporosis. Osteopenia leads to bone weakening and an increased risk of breaking a bone (fracture). Osteopenia represents a lesser degree of bone loss than osteoporosis. When there are other risk factors present (like corticosteroid medication use, smoking, or other bone conditions) that also increase the risk of bone fractures, medications may be required.

Osteopenia causes and risk factors

Osteopenia can be related to a genetic predisposition to early bone loss. It can also occur due to hormonal factors, such as decreased estrogen levels after menopause, immobility, certain medications, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, and certain medical conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease. Osteopenia does not cause pain or other symptoms unless a bone is broken.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/11/2016

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