Osteoporosis most often causes no symptoms. The main symptom that osteoporosis can cause is pain as a result of a bone fracture. Other symptoms that osteoporosis can cause are loss of height, hunched posture, and a hump in the upper back (dowager's hump), each as a direct result of compression fracture of vertebrae in the spine.
Interestingly, sometimes osteoporosis leads to bone fracture that causes no symptoms at all. Frequently, these are stress fractures in the elderly. When osteoporosis causes fracture of the spine, aside from long-term deformity, it can result in "band-like" pain on both sides of the body (typically back pain in the middle back or lower back) at the level of the spinal vertebrae that is broken. Fracture of bone away from the spine causes pain and tenderness in the corresponding area of the fracture (wrist, foot, ankle, hip, etc.). There can also be swelling, redness, and bruising in the area.
Signs of osteoporosis include evidence of bone thinning by X-ray testing, CT scan, or MRI. Osteoporosis can then be confirmed by bone density testing (DEXA bone mineral density scan). Of note, osteoporosis can be present for years before any fracture occurs, which is precisely why bone density screening can be used to diagnose occult osteoporosis so that treatment can be initiated to prevent fractures.
Osteoporosis causes and risk factors
Osteoporosis is most often caused by aging. However, osteoporosis can be caused by vitamin D deficiency, hyperparathyroidism, hyperthyroidism, corticosteroid medications (steroids such as prednisone and prednisolone), post-menopause low estrogen state, low testosterone blood levels, alcoholism, smoking, thin body frame, immobility, and malabsorption. It can run in families as an inherited trait.
Other osteoporosis symptoms and signs
Main Article on Osteoporosis Symptoms and Signs
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Osteoporosis Quiz: What is Osteoporosis?
What are the causes, symptoms, and risk factors of osteoporosis? Quiz yourself about vitamin deficiency, maintaining bone...
Osteoporosis Super-Foods for Strong Bones With Pictures
What sweetener is loaded with calcium? These bone-building super foods can help stave off osteoporosis, and many of them will...
Osteoporosis: Simple Steps to Boost Bone Health
Your bones tend to weaken as you age. But it's not unavoidable. Here are things you can do to keep them as strong as possible.
Picture of Osteoporosis
Thinning of the bones with reduction in bone mass due to depletion of calcium and bone protein. See a picture of Osteoporosis and...
Picture of Osteoporosis Progression
Bone mass (bone density) is the amount of bone present in the skeletal structure. See a picture of Osteoporosis Progression and...
What Is Osteoporosis? Treatment, Symptoms, Medication
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and density. Osteoporosis causes symptoms of weak, thin, fragile bones....
Examples of Medications for Osteoporosis Symptoms and Signs
- alendronate, Fosamax, Binosto
- Boniva (ibandronate)
- calcitonin (Miacalcin)
- calcium supplements - oral
- estrogens conjugated (Premarin)
- Evista (raloxifene)
- Forteo (teriparatide)
- horny goat weed
- Prolia (denosumab)
- Reclast (zoledronic acid)
- risedronate (Actonel, Atelvia)
- Side Effects of Fosamax (alendronate)
- vitamin D
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Subscribe to MedicineNet's Women's Health Newsletter
Harris, W.H., and R.P. Heaney. New England Journal of Medicine 280.6 Feb. 6, 1969: 303-11.