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  1. As you age, your risk of developing osteoporosis increases.
  2. People often don’t realize they have it until they experience a bump or fall that causes a bone to break.
  3. Pain from osteoporosis can affect your quality of life and cause other complications.

Your body constantly breaks down bone and replaces it with new bone. Osteoporosis is a condition in which your bone tissue breaks down faster than your body can replace it. This makes them less dense and more porous. This brittleness weakens your bones and makes them more likely to fracture and break.

Osteoporosis can affect your quality of life and lead to pain, depression, or a need for long-term home care. If you have osteoporosis or you’re at risk of getting it, you should be aware of the potential complications and seek solutions before issues arise.

Read more: What do you want to know about osteoporosis? »

Symptoms of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis usually has no obvious symptoms. People often don’t realize they have it until they experience a bump or fall that causes a bone to break. Some people will experience a loss of height over time or a stooped posture as a result of a broken vertebrae and curvature of the spine.

Risk factors for osteoporosis

According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and another 18 million are at risk of developing it.

These factors can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis:

  • As you age, your risk of developing osteoporosis increases.
  • Women experience osteoporosis more often than men, especially women in menopause. This is because low estrogen levels weaken your bones.
  • You can inherit osteoporosis.
  • If you have a small, slender build, you’re more likely to get osteoporosis.
  • Steroids and other medications have been linked to osteoporosis.
  • Thyroid problems and other conditions have been linked to osteoporosis.
  • Low vitamin D and calcium levels can lead to bone loss.
  • Long-term bed rest or a lack of exercise can weaken your bones.
  • Tobacco and alcohol can weaken your bones

Complications of osteoporosis

In addition to making you more susceptible to breaks and fractures, osteoporosis can cause these other complications:

Limited mobility

Osteoporosis can be disabling and limit your physical activity. A loss of activity can make you gain weight and increase stress on your bones, in particular, your knees and hips. Gaining weight can also increase your risk of other problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.


Less physical activity can lead to isolation and a loss of independence. Activities you once enjoyed may be too painful now. This loss can bring on depression, and a poor emotional state can further hinder your ability to manage health issues. A positive, forward-thinking outlook is helpful for handling any medical issue.


Fractures due to osteoporosis can be severely painful and debilitating. Fractures of the spine can result in a loss of height, a stooping posture, and persistent back and neck pain.

Hospital admission

Some people with osteoporosis break a bone and don’t even notice it, and most broken bones need hospital care. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 250,000 hospital admissions for hip fractures in people 65 years of age and older occurred in 2012. Surgery is often necessary for people who have hip fractures. This can lead to long hospital stays and high costs of care.

Nursing home care

If you have a hip fracture, you may need long-term care in a nursing home. If you’re bedridden, you’re more exposed to infectious diseases and at an increased risk of cardiovascular complications as well as other complications.

Treatment and prevention

No cure for osteoporosis is available. Treatment aims to slow the progression of the disease and manage symptoms. Bones need calcium to stay strong and healthy. Not getting enough calcium early on in life can lead to osteoporosis later on. Regardless of your age, calcium supplements can help strengthen your bones and keep them healthy.

Vitamin D can help your body absorb calcium. Check with your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet.

Moderate amounts of exercise can help your bones and body stay strong. Falls account for a large number of bone fractures, so practices such as yoga, tai chi, or any other balance-training exercises can help improve your balance and avoid falls and fractures.

Medications can also help with osteoporosis. Antiresorptive medications slow the rate of bone loss, and anabolic medications promote bone growth.

For women in menopause, estrogen therapy can help prevent bone loss and strengthen bones.

Other methods of prevention involve improving eyesight and using a cane or walker when walking to prevent slipping and falling.

Read more: Osteoporosis treatments »

Long-term outlook

You can treat symptoms, strengthen your body, and slow the progression of osteoporosis. Try to focus on minimizing its symptoms and don’t let other complications arise. If osteoporosis has diminished your quality of life, talk with your doctor about possible solutions, especially if you’re experiencing signs of depression, and seek assistance at home from family and friends.

Keep a positive outlook. Changes in your usual activities can be an opportunity to learn different ways of doing things and exploring new, enjoyable activities.