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Osteoporosis is a disease that affects your bones. It means you have bones that are thin and brittle, with lots of holes inside them like a sponge. This makes them easy to break. Osteoporosis can lead to broken bones (fractures) in the hip, spine, and wrist.
Osteoporosis is caused by a lack of bone strength or bone density. As you age, your bones get thinner naturally. But some things can make you more likely to have the severe bone thinning of osteoporosis. These things are called risk factors. Some risk factors you can change. Others you can't change.
Risk factors you can't change include:
Risk factors you can change include:
Experts suggest that older men talk to their doctors about osteoporosis and have bone density tests done if they are at risk.1
Diagnosis is based on your medical history and a physical exam. Bone density testing measures the density of your bones using a special X-ray or CT scan. From this information, your doctor can estimate the strength of your bones. Your doctor may also do blood and urine tests to rule out other problems that may cause bone loss. Blood tests can also tell if low levels of testosterone or estrogen in your body are causing bone loss.
National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends that all men age 70 and older routinely have a
bone density test to screen for osteoporosis. The NOF also recommends that you and your doctor check your fracture risk using a tool such as FRAX (Fracture Risk Assessment) starting at age 50. This tool can help you decide if you should be screened for osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and when to start bone density screening.
Ultrasound is sometimes offered at events such as health fairs as a quick screening for osteoporosis. Ultrasound by itself isn't a reliable test for diagnosing osteoporosis. But if results of an ultrasound screening find low bone density, your doctor can help you decide whether you should have a bone density test.
Treatment for osteoporosis may include adopting healthy habits and taking medicine to reduce bone loss and to build bone thickness. Medicine can also give you relief from pain caused by fractures or other changes to your bones.
Medicines used to prevent or treat osteoporosis include:
If you have low testosterone levels, your doctor may give you hormone therapy (shots, gels, or patches) to prevent osteoporosis. But hormone therapy to treat osteoporosis has not been approved by the FDA. If testosterone therapy is recommended, discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.
You can slow osteoporosis with new, healthy habits.
Making even small changes in how you eat and exercise, along with taking medicine, can help prevent a broken bone.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about osteoporosis:
Living with osteoporosis:
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal
and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) is a governmental institute that serves the public
and health professionals by providing information, locating other information
sources, and participating in a national federal database of health
information. NIAMS supports research into the causes, treatment, and prevention
of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases and supports the training of
scientists to carry out this research.
The NIAMS website provides
health information referrals to the NIAMS Clearinghouse, which has information
packages about diseases.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) funds
research and publishes educational material about osteoporosis for consumers
and health professionals. The NOF also provides information about bone density
testing sites, new treatment, and local groups interested in osteoporosis. The
foundation's mission is to prevent osteoporosis, promote lifelong bone
health, help improve the lives of those affected by osteoporosis and related
fractures, and find a cure.
The NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases—National
Resource Center is a government resource center that helps health
professionals, patients, and the public learn about and locate current
information on metabolic bone diseases such as osteoporosis, Paget's disease,
osteogenesis imperfecta, and hyperparathyroidism.
Qaseem A, et al. (2008). Screening for osteoporosis in
men: A clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians.
Annals of Internal Medicine, 148(9):
680–684. Also available online: http://www.acponline.org/clinical_information/guidelines/guidelines.
Other Works Consulted
National Osteoporosis Foundation (2010).
Clinician's Guide to Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis. Available online:
Current as of:
November 6, 2012
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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