Primary osteoporosis is a condition that causes your bones to become weak and fragile. Treatments and lifestyle strategies can help slow down bone loss and prevent fractures.
Primary osteoporosis is a condition that happens when age-related changes to your body cause your bones to lose mass and density, increasing your risk of fractures.
The condition is commonly linked to normal aging changes such as drops in hormonal levels after menopause or reduced calcium and vitamin D absorption in people over 70 years.
Currently, there’s no cure for osteoporosis, but treatment options — such as medications and lifestyle changes — can help slow down bone loss and prevent fractures.
What’s the difference between primary osteoporosis and secondary osteoporosis?
Primary osteoporosis has an association with aging and is the most common form of the condition.
Secondary osteoporosis is osteoporosis caused by another condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, or inflammatory bowel disease.
Medications, especially steroids — prescribed to treat inflammatory or autoimmune conditions — may also cause it.
Primary osteoporosis is a condition that causes the bones to become weak, thin, and fragile. It happens when bone density and mass are progressively lost during the aging process.
People who develop primary osteoporosis are at a heightened risk of fractures from even minor falls. This risk increases as the condition progresses and bones continue to weaken.
Symptoms of primary osteoporosis
Primary osteoporosis is often a silent condition. This is because it typically causes no symptoms. Many people are unaware they have primary osteoporosis until it leads to a fracture.
Common fracture locations include the hips, spine, and wrists, but fractures can happen in any location. When primary osteoporosis does cause symptoms, people with the condition can experience:
- loss of height
- weakened grip
- posture changes
- compression fractures in the spine
- back pain, often connected to compression fractures in the spine
Types of primary osteoporosis
Primary osteoporosis has two types:
- Postmenopausal Osteoporosis (Type 1): Postmenopausal osteoporosis occurs due to the hormonal changes that happen after menopause. The reduction in estrogen after menopause speeds up bone loss. Experts estimate that about half of people who have gone through menopause develop osteoporosis.
- Senile Osteoporosis (Type 2): Senile osteoporosis is related to aging and not hormonal levels. This type of osteoporosis develops slowly along with other typical features of aging, such as reduced formation of new bones, reduced calcium absorption, and lowered vitamin D levels in the body. Senile osteoporosis is most common in people over 70 years.
Since age-related changes in the body cause primary osteoporosis, anyone can develop it as they get older. But certain factors make primary osteoporosis more likely. These include:
- Going through menopause: People who have gone through menopause and experienced estrogen reduction are at risk of both postmenopausal primary osteoporosis and senile osteoporosis, making their overall risk of osteoporosis higher.
- Being of specific ethnic backgrounds: In the United States, people of Asian and European ancestry have a higher rate of osteoporosis.
- Smoking: Use of tobacco is linked to decreased bone density and an increased risk of osteoporosis.
- Breaking a bone later in life: Breaking a bone after age 50 is linked to a higher risk of primary osteoporosis.
- Not getting enough nutrients: Eating a diet low in essential nutrients, such as protein, calcium, and vitamin D, is linked to a higher risk of osteoporosis.
- Not getting enough physical activity: Low levels of physical activity can increase the rate of bone loss and the risk of falls. This can increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
There’s no way to cure or reverse primary osteoporosis. But treatment can help slow down bone loss and prevent fractures. Treatment options include:
- and selective estrogen receptor modulator treatments increase estrogen levels and help your body use estrogen more effectively.
- Medications such as bisphosphonate and Prolia (denosumab) can help strengthen bones and prevent fractures.
- Treatments such as calcitonin and
anabolic steroidscan help your body regulate calcium to prevent bone loss
- Increased exercise improves bone health as well as overall health.
- If you smoke, quitting smoking helps stop the harmful effects of tobacco on the bones.
- Adding nutrients such as protein, vitamin D, and calcium to your diet can help.
- Making small changes to your home to make falls less likely.
- Using pain management treatments, including:
Primary osteoporosis is a common condition that occurs when bone density and mass are lost due to changes that occur as you age. Bones become thin and weak, and your risk of fractures increases.
Often, people who have primary osteoporosis experience no symptoms until a bone fractures. Still, symptoms such as pain and changes in height and posture can occur.
Treatment can’t cure or reverse primary osteoporosis, but it can slow down bone loss. Medications can increase hormonal levels, strengthen bones, and improve calcium regulation.
Lifestyle measures, such as quitting smoking and adding calcium, protein, and vitamin D to your diet, are often also part of a treatment plan.