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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.footnote 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. 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:
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 (2014). Clinician's guide to prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. National Osteoporosis Foundation. http://nof.org/hcp/clinicians-guide. Accessed October 22, 2014.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerCarla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
Current as ofAugust 4, 2016
Current as of:
August 4, 2016
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
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