What Is Osteopenia?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

I had a bone density test and they just called me to tell me I have a spot on my hip and spine called "osteopenia."  What is it?

Doctor's response

Osteopenia is mild thinning of the bone mass.  Osteopenia represents a low bone mass, but not to the more severe extent of osteoporosis.  Osteopenia results when the formation of bone is not sufficient to offset normal bone less.

Diminished bone calcification as visualized on plain X-ray film (radiologic testing) is referred to as osteopenia, whether or not osteoporosis is present.  Osteopenia can be diagnosed by bone density measurement using a bone density scan.

Thank you for your question.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018