Bone loss: symptoms, causes and treatment

Bone loss: symptoms, causes and treatment

Bone loss, also known as osteoporosis, is a condition that develops over time in many people. Throughout your life, natural aging, certain diet or lifestyle choices, and even some medications can cause your bones to become weaker and more brittle.

This doesn’t mean your bones get smaller; instead, they become airier or less dense and more prone to breakage or fracture.

This article will go over some symptoms you can expect if you are experiencing bone loss, possible causes, and how to treat it.

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Bone loss symptoms

Bone loss usually develops slowly over time with few noticeable symptoms. Often called a silent disease, osteoporosis is usually not diagnosed until a bone is broken or fractured.

if you develop osteoporosis symptoms—either before or after an initial diagnosis— may include:

  • severe back pain
  • height loss
  • Changes in your posture (kyphosis)
  • Bones that break or fracture easily

Causes of bone loss

To some extent, bone loss occurs naturally with age as new bone growth slows. Your gender and race may also play a role. White Americans, Asian Americans, and women have the highest rates of osteoporosis. Family history is also important, so it’s good to know if anyone in your family has a history of fractures or bones that break easily.

Another aspect of aging that can lead to bone loss is hormonal changes. While some of these changes occur during puberty or pregnancy, the decline in estrogen and testosterone levels that occurs later in life is more likely to contribute to osteoporosis.

Outside of these factors, over which you have little or no control, there are other possible causes of bone loss, including:

  • low calcium and vitamin D intake
  • low protein diets
  • Chronic diseases such as gastrointestinal diseases and Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Long-term heavy drinking
  • Lack of exercise or a sedentary lifestyle
  • certain medications

What medications can cause bone loss?

There are several types of medications that can contribute to bone loss. The most common are:

It’s important to talk with your health care provider about the risks and benefits of these medications, as well as any possible side effects you may experience. Do not stop taking any prescription medication without first talking to your health care provider.

How to treat bone loss

There are several ways to address bone loss, and the first is often to make dietary and lifestyle changes that can help build strong bones. This may include increasing your intake of certain foods rich in calcium and vitamin D and making exercise a part of your daily routine. Your health care provider can also offer you education on nutrition, exercise, and fall prevention strategies.

Yes medicines are required, some options include:

  • Bisphosphonates it can help preserve bone density and slow bone loss.
  • calcitonina thyroid hormone, is used in postmenopausal women who cannot tolerate other medications.
  • Estrogen agonists/antagonistsSelective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) or tissue-selective estrogen complexes (TSECs) are used to treat and prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
  • Estrogen and hormone replacement therapies it can be used to counteract the damage caused by hormonal changes.
  • Parathyroid hormone (PTH) Parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) analog and analog are used to help increase bone mass in postmenopausal women.
  • RANK ligand (RANKL) inhibitors It can help slow bone loss in both men and women.
  • Sclerostin inhibitors can help slow bone loss and increase new bone production.

While each of these options offers some benefit, there is little evidence for the safety and efficacy of their long-term use. Researchers have suggested that further research into existing drugs and the development of new treatments is essential to improve the prevention and management of bone loss.

Bone loss treatment

Bisphosphonates are often the first choice when it comes to drugs to treat osteoporosis. Several individual medications fall into this category, including Fosamax (alendronate) and Actonel (risedronate).

According to the National Institutes of Health:

  • alendronate can reduce the chances of hip, spine and wrist fractures by 50%.
  • risedronate can reduce the chances of fractures by 40% for three years.

Complications and risk factors associated with bone loss

Early recognition and management of bone loss can help improve long-term results and reduce the chance of complications.

The most common complications of bone loss are related to the brittle nature of the bones. Hip and spine fractures are considered the most serious complications of osteoporosis, as they can contribute to significant disability and even higher mortality.

Other fractures, such as spinal fractures without a fall and compression fracturesit can also cause complications such as pain, changes in posture, and disability.

Are there tests to diagnose the cause of bone loss?

Most tests that assess bone loss aim to measure the degree of bone loss using a T-score. t-score it is a measure of bone density compared to the average bone density found in young adults.

However, in some cases of bone loss, your health care provider may run more tests to determine what underlying problems might be contributing to your osteoporosis. Osteoporosis caused by factors such as malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, or certain chronic diseases may require additional medications, such as nutritional supplements. Examples of tests that might help reduce factors that contribute to bone loss include:

When to see a health care provider

Seeing a primary care provider regularly can help identify problems like bone loss before you experience serious injuries or complications. If you know you have a high-risk condition or a family history of osteoporosis, talk to your health care provider about what you can do to slow bone loss.

If you’re not at increased risk of bone loss, but notice that you have frequent fractures or broken bones from things like minor falls or even regular movements like coughing, ask your health care provider about measuring your bone density. Early treatment of bone loss can help reduce the chances of serious complications or disability.


Bone loss normally occurs with age, but there are a number of dietary and lifestyle options, and even medications, that can speed up the process. Talk to your health care provider about the risks of bone loss and preventive measures you can take.

A word from Verywell

Many of our body systems and structures weaken over time as we age. In many cases, such as with osteoporosis, you may not notice these changes until you experience significant injury or disability.

Staying active with regular exercise and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can go a long way in preventing bone loss, but your health care provider can tailor a preventive strategy to your individual health needs and medical history.

Frequent questions

  • Can I prevent bone loss entirely?

    Although you can avoid a number of risk factors for bone loss, such as nutritional deficiencies, smoking, and alcohol use, you can’t completely avoid the effects of aging. Some degree of bone loss occurs naturally, and there are some contributing factors, such as gender and race, that cannot be changed.

  • Can my bone loss be cured?

    There are treatments that can help slow bone loss or even help increase bone growth, but you can’t really undo the damage of osteoporosis once it’s done. If you have osteoporosis, your health care provider may talk with you about things like physical therapy and fall prevention to help prevent complications.

  • Can bone loss be fatal?

    Bone loss by itself is not necessarily fatal, but it can lead to injuries such as hip fractures that decrease overall quality of life and increase mortality. Talk to your health care provider about how to maintain your health and safety if you experience bone loss.

By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN

Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.

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