Osteoporosis - Causes, Symptoms, Who are at Risk and Treatment
Health Education


Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 5 Nov 2013 - 15:08.

Osteoporosis is a condition which literally means "porous bones", and for good reason; this is a very adequate description of the disease in a nutshell. However, there is actually much more at play than meets the eye, since the bone mineral density has been significantly reduced, compromising the structural integrity of the bone, along with functional strength and predisposes the individual to fractures. Osteoporosis affects mainly post-menopausal women, but can occur in anyone at any age. Use of medications such as corticosteroids or immune-suppressants can also precipitate osteoporosis in younger individuals.

Factors that increase risk of Osteoporosis:

There are various factors that may affect the development of osteoporosis; some that can be changed and some that are inevitably unavoidable.

Factors that cannot be changed (Non-Modifiable):

•  Advanced age is commonly one of the most common osteoporosis risk factors, and cannot be changed
•  Females are much more likely to develop osteoporosis, especially post-menopausal, when the protective effect of estrogen on bone is lost
•  Women of Asian or European origin are more likely to develop osteoporosis than other ethnic groups
•  Persons with a strong genetic link of osteoporosis are more likely to develop it too


•  Alcohol intake is beneficial to bone mass in small amounts, however chronic alcoholism is more likely to increase risk of fractures.

•  Low levels of vitamin D are easily treatable unless another medical condition prevents the body from properly assimilating it. Low Vitamin D levels are associated with increased Parathyroid Hormone Levels, which increase bone reabsorption.

•  Smoking-  the exact mechanisms resulting in decreasing bone mass is unclear, but it may be attributed to premature menopause and decreased estrogen levels to name a few.

•  Exposure to certain heavy metals prevents reabsorption of calcium into the bone matrix, and at higher levels of exposure may result in a condition known as osteomalacia (soft bones).

•  Malnutrition- a diet deficient in several key bone regulating factors will inevitably lead to osteoporosis. Lack of key minerals, such as zinc, magnesium, calcium and Vitamin D has a definite role to play in development of osteoporosis. A diet highly deficient in protein may also precipitate osteoporosis, but high intake is also undesirable.


Osteoporosis itself is not characterized by symptoms, excluding the obvious appearance of hunching. However, there are definite associations with the conditions.

These include:

•  Predisposition for Fractures: This is often the most severe consequence of osteoporosis, due in part to the compromised strength of the bone matrix. Fractures are a major cause of morbidity in the geriatric population, and do result in a lot of unnecessary deaths. Fractures may not be immediately obvious, however, as in the case of spine fractures, where sudden back pain may be evident but mobility can still be achieved

•  Falls: As a result of fractures, often due to spine or hip fractures coupled with disorders that impair mobility, such as degenerative Parkinson’s disease,  muscle wasting diseases or cancers. It is best to make rooms as clear as possible to avoid the risk of causing injury

People suffering from the disorders/ diseases given below are at high risk of developing Osteoporosis:

Medications that can influence Osteoporosis

Treatment with Lithium Salts:Lithium salts used chronically over years has been shown to increase likelihood of fractures

•  Certain Anti-diabetic medication ( thiazolidinediones)

•  Drugs used To Treat Acid Reflux: drugs that alter acidity of the stomach may have a role in preventing absorption of important bone forming minerals, such as calcium

•  Glucocorticoid drugs (corticosteroids): these are notorious for causing decreases in bone matrix integrity commonly following prolonged treatment

•  Blood Thinners

•  Anti-epileptics: some medications used to treat epilepsy may accelerate the breakdown of Vit D

Hormonal treatment: certain treatments, such as cancer treatment or growth hormone analogs can possibly lead to development of osteoporosis Kidney Disease

Rheumatic Disease: persons suffering from rheumatic arthritis, spondylitis and a range of other conditions have higher risk of osteoporosis

•  Endocrine disorders: diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease and growth hormone disease can all have an impact on the rate of bone loss


The treatment of osteoporosis involves a multi-faceted approach; it would be more appropriate to refer to it as management, rather than treatment. 

*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.