Osteoporosis, which literally means “porous bone,” is a progressive bone disease that makes your bones weak, permeable, and more likely to sustain a sudden fracture after a fall or, in some cases, even from typically benign activities such as coughing or bending over. These fractures often impact the hip, wrist, or spine, but they can occur in any bone in the body. Because osteoporosis does not have symptoms or pain in its early stages, a fracture may be the first indication that a person has developed the disease.
Although osteoporosis is often thought of as a disease that impacts women, one in four men above the age of 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. As many as half of all women older than 50 will break a bone because of the condition. Osteoporosis affects about 8 million women and 2 million men.
Osteoporosis is primarily age-related, but in some cases, the disease is caused by other health conditions as well as certain medications and lifestyle factors. Types of osteoporosis include:
Primary osteoporosis is caused by age-related bone loss—when bone loss outpaces new bone formation—or by decreased gonadal function in post-meonpausal women or aging men. Primary osteoporosis accounts for more than 95 percent of osteoporosis in women and an estimated 80 percent of osteoporosis in men.
Secondary osteoporosis can be brought on by a variety of causes, including medications or other chronic diseases and conditions. Common diseases that may contribute to the development of osteoporosis include:
Medications that may lead to osteoporosis include chronic steroids, anticonvulsive medications, and excess use of thyroid hormone replacement drugs. Low calcium intake and low vitamin D levels can also contribute to the development of osteoporosis.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Published on Oct 15, 2010
Updated on Oct 11, 2012
Medically reviewed by Jennifer Monti, MD, MPH