Osteoporosis

Overview

Osteoporosis is a disease in which bone loss causes the bones to become weak and more likely to break. People with osteoporosis are more likely to break a bone from a fall or in serious cases, a minor bump. The word “osteoporosis” means porous bones. Medical imaging of a person with healthy bones reveals a tightknit honeycomb appearance; however, imaging of a person with osteoporosis shows large holes and spaces within the bones. 

Our bones are living tissues that are constantly regenerating in a process called remodeling. Bones have a resorption cycle to breakdown and dissolve tissue, leaving small cavities to be filled in during the bone formation cycle. Osteoporosis occurs when the remodeling cycle becomes imbalanced leading to bone loss. 

Who is at risk for osteoporosis? 

Risk factors that can lead to a person developing osteoporosis include:

  • Gender and age. Women get osteoporosis more often than men. Studies show that after age 50, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men will break a bone due to osteoporosis. 
  • Body size. Small, thin women are at greater risk
  • Ethnicity. White and Asian women are at highest risk
  • Family history

Other risk factors include:

  • Low estrogen levels and a low calcium and vitamin D intake can increase the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Some medications and conditions may increase the risk of osteoporosis. 
  • Lack of exercise or long-term bed rest can weaken bones.