Osteoporosis is a bone health condition that makes bone fractures more likely. The condition can lead to disability if symptoms, such as difficulty walking, prevent you from working or performing daily self-care.

Osteoporosis is a bone health condition, and it occurs when a loss of bone mass and density causes bones to weaken. The condition can lead to fracturing of bones and can cause symptoms such as pain, difficulty with motion, and curved posture.

Osteoporosis isn’t considered a disability on its own, but when osteoporosis causes symptoms or complications that affect a person’s everyday life, such as repeated bone breaks or chronic pain, it can lead to disability qualification. Exact disability rules and requirements vary by agency, benefit, and service.

Osteoporosis is a condition that affects the bones. This condition happens when bones lose mass and density, leading to a change in strength. As the condition progresses, bones weaken further, and the risk of fractures increases.

Fractures caused by osteoporosis are most common in the hip, spinal vertebrae, and wrist.

Osteoporosis doesn’t typically meet the standards to qualify as a disability on its own. If osteoporosis has caused complications, such as repeated fractures that are preventing you from daily tasks, your condition may qualify.

For instance, if you have severe pain or difficulty with walking as a result of osteoporosis fractures, you may meet the requirements.

The exact definition of disability depends on the agency or organization that oversees benefits or services. The U.S. Social Security Administration defines a disability as a condition that’s expected to either be fatal or last for at least a year and that prevents a person from working.

Anyone who is seeking disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, including people with osteoporosis, will need to meet these requirements.

Most people in the early stages of osteoporosis have no symptoms. It’s common for osteoporosis to go unnoticed until a bone breaks. When people have osteoporosis, bone breaks can be caused by minor events that wouldn’t cause significant injury to someone without this condition. These minor events can include:

  • falling from standing height
  • bending
  • lifting objects
  • coughing

When osteoporosis leads to fractures in the spine, it can cause symptoms such as back pain, a loss of height, difficulty walking, and abnormal spinal curvature.

Osteoporosis is caused by a loss of bone mass and by the changes that lost bone mass causes to the structure of bone tissue.

Losing bone mass is normal and happens to everyone. The speed of bone mass loss increases with time, and your body’s ability to replace it decreases.

Anyone can develop osteoporosis at any time. Although osteoporosis is sometimes thought of as a condition that affects women, men — especially 70 years of age — are also at risk of the condition.

There are multiple known factors that make the development of osteoporosis more likely. These factors include:

  • Age: The risk of osteoporosis increases as you age.
  • Hormonal levels: Lowered levels of estrogen are linked with an increased risk of osteoporosis.
  • Family history: You’re more likely to develop osteoporosis if someone in your family had the condition.
  • Race: Research demonstrates that osteoporosis occurs more frequently in white populations and in populations of Asian descent.
  • Body size: People with a smaller body frame have a higher risk of osteoporosis.
  • Diet: Diets low in calcium, vitamin D, or protein can increase the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Overall health: There are many health conditions that increase your risk of developing osteoporosis, including:
  • Medications: Some medications can increase your risk of osteoporosis. These medications include:
  • Activity level: People who get less physical activity and exercise are at a higher risk of osteoporosis.
  • Alcohol: Heavy alcohol use is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis.
  • Smoking: Smokers are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

There are multiple treatment options for osteoporosis, Typically, treatment plans depend on your risk of fracture within the next 10 years. Treatment options include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Improving controllable risk factors and working to prevent falls is often the first step in treatment.
  • Medications: The most common osteoporosis medications are used to slow down bone loss and belong to a class called “bisphosphonates.” Other options include bone-building medications such as teriparatide, abaloparatide, and romosozumab.
  • Hormonal therapy: Hormonal therapy is often an option for osteoporosis. Estrogen therapy is most commonly used, but treatments can vary.

Osteoporosis is a chronic condition. There’s no cure for osteoporosis, but medications can help slow down bone mass loss and reduce the risk of fracture.

If an individual has an underlying condition that’s causing or contributing to osteoporosis, then treating that condition improves bone density.

For example, if an individual has celiac disease and maintains a gluten-free diet, that individual resumes typical calcium and vitamin D absorption once the gastrointestinal tract heals, and osteoporosis may improve.

Another example could be the discontinued or lowered use of steroids prescribed for another condition. If another treatment option is found or if the dose of steroids is lowered, bone mass and density may return to a healthy balance.

You can learn more about osteoporosis and disability by reading the answers to some common questions.

Can you prevent osteoporosis?

There’s no guaranteed way to prevent osteoporosis, but taking some steps may reduce your risk. Steps include:

  • getting plenty of exercise
  • eating a nutritious diet
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • not smoking or quitting if you already smoke
  • avoiding heavy drinking

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

The most common way to diagnose osteoporosis is a bone density test. This test can measure your bone mass and can confirm osteoporosis. Sometimes additional tests, such as imaging tests, are also done.

Does osteoporosis lead to chronic pain?

Osteoporosis may lead to chronic pain when bone fractures don’t heal correctly.

Osteoporosis is a bone health condition that can lead to fractures, pain, difficulty walking, and more. When osteoporosis symptoms or complications limit everyday activities and prevent you from self-care, it can sometimes be classed as a disability.